Senator Lankford Calls on Senate to Confirm Scott Pruitt for EPA Administrator

WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford tonight spoke on the Senate floor in support of Scott Pruitt’s confirmation as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. A final confirmation vote for Pruitt is scheduled for approximately 12:00pm CT on Friday. 

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Speech Transcript:

“Mr. President, it is an absolute honor today to be able to rise and speak in support of Attorney General Scott Pruitt. For the last 6 years, Scott has been a leader in the state of Oklahoma and he’s been strongly committed to enforcing the law in Oklahoma – as it’s written and as it’s consistent with the Constitution. He’s a statesman. He’s a dedicated public servant. As administrator of the EPA, I fully expect Scott to be able to lead the agency to follow every environmental law and to  partner with states, local authorities, and tribes to do what is best for the present and for the future. 

Now, I’ve heard some people talk about their opposition to Scott’s nomination, saying they don’t believe Scott believes in clean air and clean water. That’s not the issue for Scott. Scott absolutely believes in clean air and clean water and the accusations that somehow he wants dirty air and dirty water and our children to be poisoned is ludicrous. The question for Scott is not if we should have clean air and clean water, it’s “who is the primary steward of our clean air and clean water?” Everyone has a role, we are a nation that is connected to each other. What happens in one state does affect another state, that’s why we have a national strategy working with the Environmental Protection Agency. But in the Clean Water Act and in the Clean Air Act the states are given primary responsibility through what’s called a state implementation plan to determine what’s best in there and the best solution to be able to deal with the issues of air and water.   

Scott has fought for the states to be allowed to be in the driver’s seat, with regard to all the state resources, arguing for those that work at wind farms and oil fields and on cattle ranches. For families that have drinking water and that breath the air and that live there. The people that have the loudest voice should be the people that actually drink that water and breath that air, and understand the effects of it firsthand. He’s not been alone in this fight. As the Attorney General of Oklahoma, he’s stood shoulder to shoulder with more than half the states to ensure the Federal Government operates within the bounds in the statute of the Constitution. He’s consistently argued that the EPA, when they promulgate rules that violate that basic principle of state implementation plan should stop, do what the EPA does best, and have the EPA push the states to do what they should do best.  In an environment where Chevron Deference is the precedent set, it’s critical that the leader of an agency, that has such wide latitude to extract cost out of the economy, should respect the federalist foundation that we have and the pocket books of hardworking families as well as our air and our water. 

In previous Congressional testimony, he’s stressed the importance of laws like the Clean Air Act, stressing the intention was for states and the EPA to work together under a model of cooperative federalism that protects the environment while considering economic cost. Scott pursued cases against the EPA and other federal agencies in an effort to enable and embolden our state government officials to craft the legislation that needs to be done. His focus, has been not to eliminate environmental protections, it’s to honor a country with tremendous diversity from the Rocky Mountains, to open deserts, to beautiful woodland areas. 

Surprisingly enough, the issues that we face on environment in the concrete jungle of Washington D.C. is different than it is in Woodward, Oklahoma. Let me give you an example of one of those cases he engaged in. It’s a case where the EPA created a new regulation called ‘Waters of the US’. It dramatically changed the definition of what are the areas that the EPA could oversee and increased their regulatory authority by millions of acres, just in one regulatory sweep. The courts immediately stepped in and stopped this and Scott Pruitt and many other states’ Attorney Generals said the EPA doesn’t have the right to be able to step into almost every inch of our state and say they suddenly have regulatory authority. In fact, the court said this, “we conclude that petitioners have demonstrated a substantial possibility of success on the merits of their claims.” Furthermore they said this, “what is of great concern to us in balancing the harms, is the burden potentially visited nationwide on government bodies, state and federal, as well as private parties.” The court stepped in and agreed with Scott Pruitt, that the EPA was overreaching, and that case is still in the courts right now. That is a reasonable thing to be able to do for an Attorney General that has the responsibility to not only manage the legal issues of the state, but to also watch out for the consumers of the state.

As funny as it sounds, if you go to the EPA’s website today and look at Oklahoma and air quality, here’s what it says, “CAA permitting in Oklahoma, Clean Air Act permitting in Oklahoma is the responsibility of the air quality division exit of the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality.” The EPA’s website, today, says the responsibility for this is from the Department of Environmental Quality in Oklahoma. All our Attorney General has done is said to the EPA, “you should probably follow the law, or at least your own website, to be able to handle all the permitting issues of who has the authority to do this.” 

For the past month, I’ve heard senator after senator come to this floor, and describe my great state of Oklahoma in a way that makes Scott Pruitt sound like an ogre and my state sound like a toxic waste dump. Let me give you an example. Attorney General Pruitt has been dismissed by some who  say that he has personally been engaged in leading our state to such terrible air quality, that the American Lung Association has given the counties in Oklahoma an F rating. Well, that’s an interesting accusation. Until you actually go to the American Lung Association’s website and see that they give almost every county in America an F rating. In fact, they give every county in Delaware an F rating in air quality. They categorize those under “high o-zone days”.  In one of three counties, they barely skated by with a D for Delaware. While in Oklahoma, the two largest metropolitan areas actually received an A from the American Lung Association. Similarly, in that same study, Rhode Island, lacks a single county that doesn’t get an F for air quality on high o-zone days, while only two counties received a passing grade for particulate pollution. The accusation that somehow the American Lung Association has looked at Scott Pruitt and his record of environmental policy and has given us a dirty air quality is not actually true when you actually see the full study. 

What’s interesting as well is that the EPA publishes data about whether the counties meet the national ambient air quality standards. They have 6 criteria that the EPA puts out for this. In fact, recently, they dropped the criteria significantly from the previous years. What’s interesting as well, is for Oklahoma, last week the EPA released out their national ambient air quality standards, trying to determine which counties have attainment for the standards or non attainment. Guess what? Every single county in Oklahoma, all 77, is attainment. Even the new standard, that was just released, that we don’t even have to operate under, we already meet those standards for ambient air quality. Meanwhile, Maryland has 12 counties in non attainment for at least one of those criteria. Connecticut has 8 counties that don’t meet those standards. California has 38 of their 58 counties failing to meet those standards in at least 1 criteria. 77 counties in Oklahoma, every single one of them meets attainment. I don’t hear anyone standing on this floor challenging the Attorney General of California or of Maryland or of Connecticut and demonizing them, and accusing them of not taking care of the air and the water in their state.  

By the way, I’ve also heard on this floor besides my state being ripped apart for political gain, I’ve also heard on this floor over and over again that asthma rates for children are catastrophically high in Oklahoma and Scott Pruitt should’ve been more engaged filing law suits so that asthma rates would go down.  Look at the CDC website for asthma rates for children – it’s 10.1% in Oklahoma, 1 child is too many. It’s 10.1% in our state. You can compare that to Rhode Island which is 12.4% or Michigan which is 10.7%. Vermont beat us, by the way, they’re 9.9%, .2% below us. Again, I don’t hear anyone on this floor calling out the Attorney General of Vermont, Michigan, or Rhode Island and saying they’ve failed to protect their children because children have asthma in their state.

Another thing is commonly said about Scott in the state of Oklahoma is that he’s committed to conventional energy sources and that he’s stuck in the past dealing with oil and gas. I’d tell you, Oklahoma is rightfully proud of a history of oil and gas in our state. We have unlocked resources that have absolutely powered our nation forward. We also have an incredible group of visionaries in our state that are driving renewable resources as fast as we’re driving oil and gas in our state. For all of the folks that are here bashing on oil and gas, I would remind you that you travelled to Washington D.C. In a plane or a car or a train that was powered on Oklahoma energy, so you’re welcome. I would assume 2 weeks from now when we’re back in session, you’re going to ride in on a horse just to be able to spite Oklahoma’s energy. Probably not, but can I remind you of something? What’s often overlooked about Oklahoma and what’s not been stated here is that Oklahoma truly is an all of the above energy state: solar, hydroelectric, geothermal, wind, oil, gas, coal. Let me give you an example, just one of the examples from that. Recent data shows Oklahoma ranks 3rd nationally in total wind power. We just passed California for total wind production and we’re just barely behind Iowa and Texas. The install capacity for Oklahoma alone, just in wind generation, 1.3 million households powered by wind power in Oklahoma. 

I will admit, I’m a little biased about my state. But I’m weary of hearing people inaccurately demean the air and water in Oklahoma and try to accuse it for something that is not true for their political benefit. Here’s my invitation to any member of this body, why don’t you come home to Oklahoma with me? I’ll buy you some great barbecue and drive you around the state. I’ll take you from the green country in the Northeast part of the state over to Quinton, Oklahoma and Black Mason to see the majestic area around our panhandle. We’ll drive four wheelers at Little Sahara, maybe we’ll drive down to Beavers Bend Park, stand under the tall trees and put our feet in the crystal clear water of that river. I’ll even take you to my house in Oklahoma City, a community of a million people that exceeds the EPA’s standards for ambient air quality. 

We say in Oklahoma, “the land we belong to is grand,” and we mean it and we are passionate about our land. And we’re passionate about our air and water, and I would tell you that Scott Pruitt is passionate about his state and what we do there. I’ll tell you how political this has really become. Mike Turpen is the former Attorney General of the state of Oklahoma, and by the way also the former chairman of the Oklahoma Democratic Party. Mike Turpen, when it was announced that Scott Pruitt was going to be tapped to be EPA, he released this statement: “Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt is a good choice to head up the Environmental Protection Agency. I am convinced Scott Pruitt will work to protect our natural habitats, reserves, and resources. His vision for the proper relationship between the protection and the prosperity makes him superbly qualified to serve as our next EPA administrator.” That is from the former head of the Oklahoma Democratic Party. 

So far my colleagues have found a good reason for every cabinet nominee to delay, delay, delay. This has now been the slowest confirmation process for any President since George Washington. The tradition has always been, the President won an election, he should be able to hire his own staff and his own cabinet and get busy going to work. That’s what the American people asked him to do. Scott Pruitt deserves an up or down vote and he deserves our trust to be able to take on and follow the law doing what the EPA has required him to do. Scott Pruitt is a friend and I understand some folks have attacked him that have only met him in a hearing or read about him on some blog site. But I’ve prayed with Scott. I’ve seen Scott struggle with hard decisions that affect our state’s future. I’ve seen Scott listen to people from all sides of an issue and I’ve seen him take difficult stands. I think he’ll be an excellent EPA administrator.

And I think he will make some wise choices, to not only protect what’s happening now, but to be able to help protect us for the future. You see, Scott is a husband and a dad as well. And he cares also about the future of our country. I think he’s going to go after it and to be able to be an excellent administrator in the days ahead.”