Trump’s EPA nominee took credit for a case that started years before he took office

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt didn’t start the case he says demonstrates his environmental record.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt testified Wednesday at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. CREDIT: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt testified Wednesday at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. CREDIT: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt (R), President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency, was asked in his confirmation hearing Wednesday for examples that demonstrate his record of going after corporate polluters. The only case he cited actually began years before he took office, parties to the suit have told ThinkProgress.

In May 2011, the federal EPA, the State of Oklahoma, and the State of Texas settled with the Mahard Egg Farm for $1.9 million over violations of the Clean Water Act. Pruitt took office less than five months before.

Pruitt cited the Mahard Egg Farm case during his confirmation hearing at the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee after questioning from Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA).

While Pruitt did technically file the case on behalf of Oklahoma, it was both filed and settled on the same day.

“It was an extensive negotiation,” said James Bradbury, the Texas-based lawyer who represented Mahard.

A spokesperson for the EPA said the case began in 2008 and negotiations began no later than 2009.

The case was brought over violations to the EPA’s Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) regulations, which oversee manure and waste from animals to prevent water contamination and over-nitrogenation of the ground.

“Nothing against AG Pruitt, but it was really a DOJ, EPA-driven process,” Bradbury said.

Pruitt has been questioned by the Senate committee over his extensive ties to the oil and gas industry, as well as his seeming ignorance of environmental science and his lack of prosecutorial action on environmental violations in his state, which has one of the country’s highest asthma rates.

Pruitt has been a staunch opponent to the EPA during his tenure as Oklahoma attorney general, suing the agency numerous times over the Clean Power Plan, the Mercury Air Toxics Rule, and other regulations.