The Senate just confirmed Scott Pruitt to lead the EPA, despite unreleased emails

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AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Scott Pruitt smiles during his confirmation hearing.

The Senate voted 52-46 Friday afternoon to confirm Scott Pruitt as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Pruitt, who was until the vote the Attorney General of Oklahoma, has publicly touted his efforts to fight EPA regulations.

Two Democrats, Joe Manchin from West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp from North Dakota, both from states with large fossil fuel industries, broke ranks to vote for him.

The vote came despite an effort by Senate Democrats to delay the vote until Monday, February 27.

Pruitt was ordered late Thursday by Oklahoma judge to release more than 3,000 emails with fossil fuel companies sent during his time as Attorney General of Oklahoma.

His office did not release the emails despite repeated requests from state residents. The judge's order would have forced the office to do so by Tuesday . Democrats argued that the emails might contain damning evidence of Pruitt's collusion with polluting industries, while Republicans argued that Pruitt had been forced to wait for his confirmation long enough.

Here are some key things to know about the new EPA administrator's environmental record:

  • Pruitt presented himself as a strict constitutionalist during his confirmation hearings, who would reign in what he saw as excesses at the EPA .
  • Nearly 800 former EPA officials publicly opposed his nomination , pointing toward what they saw as his hostility toward environmental efforts and cozy relationship with polluting industries.
  • At one point during his confirmation hearings, Pruitt suggested he had taken steps to pursue an environmental case against several large poultry corporations. This appears not to have been true .
  • What is true is that Pruitt sued the EPA 14 times as state attorney general, always to block environmental regulations and cleanup efforts . In one case he sued to block a cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay, 1,400 miles from his own state.
  • He has also more than once sent letters on Oklahoma Attorney General letterhead that appear to have been written by oil companies .
  • Pruitt acknowledges that the climate is changing and that humans are involved, but it's not clear if that acknowledgement translates into any specific policy prescriptions.

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