E&E News' Bravender talks Trump EPA pick, future of climate policy

Following weeks of speculation, and even a meeting with former Vice President Al Gore, President-elect Donald Trump chose Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to lead U.S. EPA this week. What will a Pruitt EPA look like, and how does climate policy stand to change over the next four years? On today's The Cutting Edge, E&E News reporter Robin Bravender explains how Pruitt may navigate the endangerment finding and work to unravel the Clean Power Plan.


Monica Trauzzi: Welcome to the Cutting Edge. What will a Pruitt EPA look like and how does climate policy stand to change over the next four years? With me today is E&E News reporter Robin Bravender. Robin, thank you for joining me.

Robin Bravender: Thanks, Monica.

Monica Trauzzi: So, Robin, after weeks of speculation and even a meeting with former Vice President Al Gore, President-elect Donald Trump has chosen Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head up EPA. Pruitt has a long record of action on energy and climate, so are we going to see this "global warming is a hoax" rhetoric really emerge over the next four years?

Robin Bravender: We haven't seen much of that from Pruitt. Some folks on Donald Trump's team are definitely climate skeptics. Pruitt hasn't talked much about the science. He's a politician and a lawyer from Oklahoma, and many of his arguments have been based around saying the government doesn't in fact have the authority to be imposing these rules. Also, he's focused on the costs, so we're expecting that to be much more of his argument there.

Monica Trauzzi: And so then specifically on the Clean Power Plan, we're expecting that he will seek to undo the plan completely. How quickly could we see that happen?

Robin Bravender: As you know, that rule is still pending in a federal appeals court right now. We could see an opinion come out there anytime. It could come before or after Trump's inauguration. So legally that process is going to be playing out for a while. The Trump administration could decline to defend that rule in court, but meanwhile they're expected to start the rule back as early as January in the EPA, but that'll be a formal rulemaking process, which will take notice and comment, and it'll take awhile.

Monica Trauzzi: The endangerment finding remains, though, so how might a Pruitt EPA navigate that?

Robin Bravender: Pruitt's been critical of the EPA endangerment finding, which the Obama administration put into place finding that greenhouse gases threaten public health and welfare. That triggered the greenhouse gas rules under the Clean Air Act, so they're not expected to actually roll that back just because it would take a long time and it would be politically challenging. Meanwhile, what they can do is roll back some of the climate rules the Obama administration has put into place, including the Clean Power Plan.

Monica Trauzzi: So what did you hear from your sources this week as the news came out? Were people surprised? What's the reaction been?

Robin Bravender: Very few people were surprised. Pruitt's name has been in the running since the very beginning. Even before Trump was elected, folks were talking about him. He's been the face of the lawsuit against the Clean Power Plan in court. But the left was understandably angry. He's not championing any of the things they'd like to see on global warming, so they were upset on the pick. They see it as a sign that Trump plans to follow through with his campaign train rhetoric on climate change. Coming after that meeting with Al Gore, some of them were disappointed. Meanwhile, folks on the right are happy. Obama — or, I'm sorry, James Inhofe of Oklahoma is a Pruitt supporter. He's from his home state, so he's happy about that. Industry is happy. They see this as a sign that the EPA is going to roll back a lot of these major climate rules.

Monica Trauzzi: And Senate Democrats have already indicated that they'll seek to block the nomination. Does that have legs? Ultimately does he get through the nomination process?

Robin Bravender: There is a lot of talk among Senate Democrats that they'd like to stop this nomination, but ultimately there's very little they can do. With the nuclear option that the Democrats put in place a few years back, they only need a simple majority to approve nominees, so they can try to slow down the process, they can try to rally the public against this nominee, but ultimately Republicans are expected to hold their ranks here and maybe even a few Democrats will support him.

Monica Trauzzi: All right. It'll be very exciting to watch. Thanks for coming on the show.

Robin Bravender: Thanks, Monica.

Monica Trauzzi: More Cutting Edge coming next Friday. We'll see you then.

[End of Audio]



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