Senate set to approve Trump’s EPA pick as White House targets regulation

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By Timothy Gardner

<span class="articleLocation”>The U.S. Senate is expected to approve President
Donald Trump’s pick to run the Environmental Protection Agency
on Friday over the objections of Democrats and green groups
worried he will gut the agency, as the administration readies
executive orders to ease regulation on drillers and miners.

Trump’s nominee, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, is
likely to pass the vote, which is scheduled for 1 p.m. EST (1800
GMT) on Friday, with the support of nearly all the Republicans
in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Pruitt’s nomination has been controversial in progressive
circles. He sued the agency he intends to lead more than a dozen
times while top prosecutor of his oil and gas producing state,
and has expressed doubts about the science behind climate
change. But many Republican lawmakers view him as a welcome
change at the EPA, an agency they say declared war on the coal
industry during Barack Obama’s presidency with rules against
carbon emissions.

Democratic Senator Ben Cardin said on Thursday he was
concerned Pruitt’s opposition to Obama’s landmark Clean Power
Plan to reduce emissions from coal and natural gas burning
plants would hurt the environment and U.S. leadership in
international efforts to curb climate change.

Other opponents of Pruitt’s nomination have expressed
concerns about his ties to the energy industry. An Oklahoma
court this week ruled Pruitt will have to turn over 3,000 emails
between his office and energy companies by Tuesday after a
watchdog group, the Center for Media and Democracy, sued for
their release.

Democrats said the Senate would vote at 12:30 p.m. EST on
extending the debate over Pruitt until Feb. 27, a move expected
to fail.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters Majority
Leader Senator Mitch McConnell had moved to “strap blinders” on
his fellow Republicans by not waiting for the release of
Pruitt’s emails.

Pruitt needs 51 votes in the 100-member chamber to be
approved. Nearly all 52 Republicans, except Senator Susan
Collins, who announced her opposition on Wednesday, are expected
to vote for him.

Two Democrats from energy-producing states, Joe Manchin of
West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, are expected
to vote for Pruitt.

Trump likely will issue executive orders to reshape the EPA
if his pick is approved, sources said.

Trump has promised to slash environmental rules as a way to
bolster drilling and coal mining but has vowed to do so without
compromising air and water quality. (Additional reporting by Richard Cowan)



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