UPDATE: In a 52-46 Senate vote, Scott Pruitt was confirmed as the new EPA administrator on Feb. 17 and sworn in later that day, as reported by multiple publications. Senate Democrats unsuccessfully attempted to delay the vote until emails between Pruitt and energy companies during his time as Oklahoma attorney general were released. An Oklahoma state judge has ordered that the emails in question be released by today, but they not all be made public.
In a recent interview with The Wall Street Journal, his first since being nominated in November, Pruitt gave one of the most detailed outlines of his agenda so far. Top priorities include withdrawing the Clean Power Plan and the 2015 Waters of the United States rule, and improving water infrastructure. He also plans to give more deference to state environmental agencies, as opposed to what he saw as overreach by the Obama administration.
Pruitt has not taken many positions on waste issues so far and his effect on the industry is hard to predict. In the interview he mentioned Superfund sites as a priority, as well as policies that would enable more job creation. One of his first tweets as administrator cited "industry, farmers, ranchers, business owners" as key stakeholders that he plans to work with "on traditional values of environmental stewardship."
- President-elect Donald Trump has selected Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt for Environmental Protection Agency administrator. The nomination was announced by the transition team in a news release Thursday, as reported by The Washington Post.
- Pruitt has been the attorney general of Oklahoma since 2011 during which time he served two terms as the president of the Republican Attorneys General Association. Previously he was an Oklahoma state senator for eight years.
- Pruitt has been a vocal critic of the EPA and is a strong advocate for state-based regulatory approaches. He has been a leading figure in lawsuits to block the agency's work on the Clean Water Rule and the Clean Power Plan.
Pruitt has been seen as a top contender for the job due in part to his relationship with Harold Hamm, an oil billionaire and CEO of Continental Resources. Hamm advised Trump on energy policies during the campaign and was co-chairman of Pruitt's re-election campaign in 2013. As detailed in a 2014 New York Times investigation Pruitt has worked very closely with fossil fuel companies to push back on the Obama administrations' regulatory policies.
As detailed in a May 2016 opinion piece that he co-authored for The National Review, Pruitt does not recognize the validity of climate science.
"Healthy debate is the lifeblood of American democracy, and global warming has inspired one of the major policy debates of our time. That debate is far from settled," he wrote. "That debate should be encouraged — in classrooms, public forums, and the halls of Congress. It should not be silenced with threats of prosecution. Dissent is not a crime."
Environmental organizations including Sierra Club and the Environmental Defense Fund have already come forward to criticize this decision. "Having Scott Pruitt in charge of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is like putting an arsonist in charge of fighting fires," wrote Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club, in a statement. "He is a climate science denier who, as Attorney General for the state of Oklahoma, regularly conspired with the fossil fuel industry to attack EPA protections."
Trump's position on climate change and the effect of his environmental policies on the waste industry are open questions. In a post-election survey of Waste Dive readers, a majority of respondents said they were dissatisfied with the election results and climate change was a commonly raised issue. In addition to the fate of the Clean Power Plan and other regulations, Pruitt has the potential to influence a number of current EPA priorities. The agency's stance on food waste reduction, environmental justice and circular economy concepts, among many other areas, could be in for a stark change in 2017.