What just-confirmed EPA administrator Scott Pruitt means for the environment and jobs

What just-confirmed EPA administrator Scott Pruitt means for the environment and jobs
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, President-elect Donald Trump's choice to head the Environmental Protection Agency, testifies during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works on Capitol Hill Jan. 18, 2017,
Source: Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, President-elect Donald Trump's choice to head the Environmental Protection Agency, testifies during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works on Capitol Hill Jan. 18, 2017,
Source: Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images

The new head of the Environmental Protection Agency is an avowed critic of the federal organization he will now lead. The Oklahoma attorney general will take over an EPA that has spent eight years putting restrictions on fossil fuel companies in order to fight climate change. Pruitt and most Republican legislators have pledged to roll back those regulations.

In a near-party-line vote, with just one Republican joining Democrats in opposing Pruitt, the fossil fuel industry saw one of its closest political supporters elevated to oversight of its operations. (Pruitt has sued the EPA 14 times.) For a third time, Democrats held the Senate floor for a day to highlight their disapproval of Pruitt. "This billionaire Cabinet is not being put in place to do right for the American people," Sen. Chris Murphy said early Friday on the Senate floor. "It's being put in place to do right for big corporations that don't need any more allies in Washington." EPA employees signed petitions and called their senators to protest Pruitt's nomination. 

Republicans, of course, do not see Pruitt the same way. "He's dedicated to environmental protection," Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said of Pruitt on Thursday. "[But] he understands the real-world consequences of EPA actions and knows that balance is the key to making policies that are sustainable over the long term." The GOP has long argued that Obama's EPA pursued policies that killed jobs across the country. Specifically, regulations on the coal industry and power plants were considered overly burdensome. Pruitt is expected to heavily amend or entirely rescind these rules.

What to know about Pruitt: Pruitt initially attracted controversy for saying science saying climate change was manmade is "far from settled" and allegedly not pursuing polluters in Oklahoma. (In his confirmation hearing, Pruitt said he no longer believes climate change is a hoax but is still unsure of the role human activity plays in global warming.) Now, a court case in Oklahoma has forced Pruitt's office to release thousands of emails between the attorney general's office and fossil fuel companies. Over the next 10 days, these released emails are likely to detail how energy companies attempted to influence Pruitt. Elizabeth Warren torched Pruitt on the issue of these emails on Friday morning, arguing the vote should not proceed until those details are released. 

Democratic senators have hammered Pruitt over his financial ties to fossil fuel companies. A super PAC with ties to fossil fuel companies was formed to push for Pruitt's confirmation with dollars from anonymous donors. During Pruitt's time in state government, he has reportedly received outsized financial support from the energy sector.

Perhaps this is a preview: Trump has already signed a resolution that repeals a 2016 Obama administration rule that would have prevented coal companies from dumping mining waste into streams. The regulation did not come out of the EPA, but it signals the direction of actions Pruitt could take quickly now that he is confirmed.

How Pruitt will impact the environment and industry: Pruitt made clear in his confirmation hearing that states should have a greater role in setting their environmental regulations. He said states should work together, in coordination with the EPA where necessary, to handle pollution concerns across state lines. Pruitt also argued that profits and the environment can be simultaneously protected, something McConnell reiterated Thursday.

These standard GOP talking points — clean water and thriving mining jobs! — make Democrats suspicious. But like Republican statements on the Affordable Care Act, we simply don't know whether Pruitt and McConnell et al. can deliver. Republican arguments for how to protect the environment have been little more than rhetoric for eight years. Now, Pruitt will have his chance to implement a vision that is sure to be a major departure from Obama's.

In 100 years, we can all check back to see what this approach did for the planet.

This is Mic's daily read on Donald Trump's America — and how it affects you. Welcome to the political newsletter that finds it cathartic to sit in the Senate at 9 p.m.

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Highlights

•  Today: Scott Pruitt was just confirmed to lead the EPA.

•  A Mic special: Your guide to this weekend's planned protests across the country.

•  There’s no way around it: The deliberate global entry revocation of Muslim travelers is a clear violation of the first amendment. A scoop from Mic's Sarah Harvard.

•  More: The latest on Michael Flynn.

•  Even more: Highlights from Trump's bombastic press conference.

•  Yes, more: Trump's new nominee for labor secretary. 

•  A final point: Thoughts from readers this week.

•  Breaking Friday: Trump is reportedly considering mobilizing 100,000 National Guard troops to round up undocumented immigrants across the country. The White House has denied this.

•  Trump's agenda today: Flying to South Carolina and meeting with the CEO of Boeing. After touring a Boeing plant, Trump will head to West Palm Beach, Florida, ahead of a rally.

Your weekly protest update from Mic

Trump has drawn grassroots opposition at historic levels across the country. The Women's March was only the beginning. Every week since Trump's inauguration, thousands of people have gathered to show their opposition to the new president. Like them or not, these protests are happening. We want to keep you up-to-date on how they're growing, fading and otherwise developing.

Each week, Mic will preview the largest protests planned each weekend across the country. We'll show you when and where you can join protests in large American cities. Read our first update here. And learn about the first general strike that is set to happen Friday to oppose Trump. 

The latest on Michael Flynn

Michael Flynn is back in the news. The former national security adviser who resigned on Monday reportedly lied to the FBI in late January when he was asked about the content of a call with the Russian ambassador. Flynn told the FBI that he did not discuss U.S. sanctions against Russia in that call before Trump's inauguration. Turns out, recordings clearly show he did. Lying to the FBI is a crime punishable by time in prison — but the FBI is not expected to charge Flynn. The agency said the former general did not "intentionally" mislead investigators.

Also Thursday, Trump's pick to replace Flynn, Robert Harward, turned down the job offer. The retired vice admiral clashed with the White House over staffing and whether he could choose his own deputies.

Clinton emails. As congressional Republicans pursue a broad and traditional investigation into Russian hacking to influence the U.S. election, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform committee has declined to dig into Flynn's story. Yet Rep. Jason Chaffetz moved Thursday to recommend a former Hillary Clinton staffer face prosecution over — you guessed it — her private email server. Chaffetz posted a photo on Instagram of himself shaking hands with Clinton during Trump's inauguration with the caption, "The investigation continues."

The 3 takeaways from that press conference

The president took the podium at the White House on Thursday afternoon and delivered a classic Trumpian performance, complete with ridicule of journalists, attacks on intelligence agencies and dismissal of his critics. Here are the three key takeaways.

This is how Trump handles stress. We know Trump, perhaps more than any other president, pays very close attention to what journalists say about him. And after four days of coverage that described his White House as being in chaos, the president had enough. The press conference was an opportunity for Trump to again speak directly to the press, something he did regularly throughout the primary season. One thing Trump felt compelled to highlight over and over: He beat Clintonbigly.

The president told bald-faced lies, repeatedly. This isn't up for debate. Trump repeated falsehoods he has spouted many times, some of them for months. While bragging about his election victory, he said he had the largest Electoral Victory since Ronald Reagan. In fact, his was the third-smallest over that time period. Trump also accused Clinton of giving Russia a fifth of America's uranium (no). Read a full rundown from Mic.

Attacks on the media may only grow. Everyone keeps looking for a White House reset with the press corps. Does anything about Thursday's press conference suggest that will happen? The president repeatedly called media organizations "fake news" and seemed to take joy in dismissing specific reporters as liars or biased. Following that press conference, the GOP is out with a "Mainstream Media Accountability Survey" asking Americans to describe what they think about journalism outlets. Something to think about this weekend: Whatever you think of journalists, do you believe the country can function well without them?

The president's new pick for Labor

Alexander Acosta is not the typical Trump administration pick. Acosta, who once led the Justice Department's civil rights division, has publicly defended the rights of Muslim Americans. Trump's new nominee for labor secretary was also a member of the National Labor Relations Board and the first Hispanic American to become an assistant attorney general. He would also be the first Hispanic member of Trump's Cabinet, a largely homogenous group.

Acosta has been confirmed by the Senate in the past. He's a stark contrast to Andy Puzder, the white CEO of Hardee's and Carl's Jr. who withdrew over allegations of spousal abuse. By that time, dozens of Republican senators were expressing skepticism that they could support his nomination. Puzder opposed a federal minimum wage increase, while Acosta's position is unknown. Protests led by fast-food workers also put pressure on Puzder's nomination, and workers will closely monitor Acosta's nomination process.  

Thoughts from readers

Readers weighed in throughout the week on the latest Trump news. Selected thoughts, in no particular order:

From Peter: "Watching all this unfold from far away (Germany) I sometimes get the impression that most of Mr. Trump's foreign policy ideas stem from the novels of Tom Clancy. But hey, maybe I'm wrong."

From Jeannette: "I think it is great Intelligence is keeping things from Trump. He is a man that cannot be trusted in any way. He is for himself and his business friends, including Russia."

From Ashley: "Facts are good."

From Gene: "You've added to the confusion, with some hype thrown in."

News and insight you cannot miss:

•  The U.S. Customs and Border Protection are revoking and denying global entry eligibility to a spate of Muslim travelers — including U.S. citizens — without explanation. The global entry revocations began when President Donald Trump’s travel ban was put into effect. It is even targeting Muslim travelers (or those with Muslim-sounding names) outside of the seven banned countries. (Mic)

•  Protecting Trump's family is costing the federal government and cities millions of dollars. It's also straining the Secret Service. (Washington Post)

•  Trump reportedly has a White House communications director, lightening the workload for press secretary Sean Spicer. Spicer has been handling both jobs for the past month. (Mic)

•  Sen. Bernie Sanders has proposed a law to preserve Social Security for millennials by raising taxes on people who make more than $250,000. (Mic)

Trump, 28 days later: A catalog of the tweets, executive orders, Cabinet confirmations and more. (Politico)

•  Trump told Gov. Chris Christie what to order for lunch. Seriously. (Mic)