VIDEO: Senate Kamala Harris Presses EPA Administrator on Upholding California’s Motor Vehicle Pollution Standards
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA), a member of the Committee on Environment and Public Works, questioned President-Elect Trump's EPA Administrator nominee Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt at a confirmation hearing. Among the key topics addressed, Harris pressed Pruitt on his commitment to allow California to continue enforcing stricter standards on motor vehicle pollution than the federal government, as granted by an EPA waiver.
"The EPA has historically recognized California's authority to issue new motor vehicle pollution standards that go above and beyond federal standards. In your opening statement, you write: 'it is not EPA's mission to be against sectors of industry in general or particular states.' Will you commit then to upholding that same standard and recognizing California's authority to issue its own new motor vehicle air pollution standards?" Harris asked.
Harris also asked Pruitt if he could name a single instance in which he has filed a lawsuit against a polluter. Pruitt has led and coordinated litigation against the EPA on more than 14 occasions, including a number of cases affecting issues such as air quality standards, clean water and pollution limits.
A video of her appearance at the hearing can be found HERE
A full transcript of Harris' remarks is below:
Harris: Thank you Chairman, Mr. Pruitt as an Attorney General, I know as a former Attorney General of California, that we as Attorneys General have several duties, which include representing our clients, state agencies, and also the discretion and power to initiate lawsuits in our independent capacity as Attorneys General, would you agree with that?
Pruitt: Some states provide more latitude that than others.
Harris: Does your state?
Pruitt: Our state has not provided constitutionally as much authority as much as other states.
Harris: Have you never exercised your independent capacity as Attorney General to bring a legal action?
Pruitt: Senator, I would have to know more specifics about what you're referring to, but in response to your question it does vary by state.
Harris: Have you never exercised your independent capacity as the Attorney General of your state to initiate a legal action? Yes or no?
Pruitt: That litigations that we've engaged in, largely have been in consultation with agencies that...
Harris: Largely? So you have also exercised your independent capacity as the Attorney General of your state? Is that correct? Or not?
Pruitt: I may have, Senator, I don't know.
Harris: You don't know if you have or not? You've been Attorney General for your state for almost seven years is that correct?
Pruitt: Approaching that, yes. Six years, actually.
Harris: And I've read that you have initiated, and it has been mentioned before, fourteen lawsuits in your independent capacity as the Attorney General of Oklahoma, and apparently seven of those cases have been resolved, six of which you have lost. My question is- I hear that you are a lover of a baseball, what would your batting average then be?
Pruitt: It was generally about .300, which is pretty good for a second baseman.
Harris: My calculation is that it is about. 142. Moving on, would you agree that as attorneys who have the responsibility of doing the work of justice, in particular as an Attorney General, that we make decisions based on propriety and impropriety, we make decisions based on what is not only an actual conflict but what is an appearance of conflict. Would you agree that's important?
Pruitt: I believe that is important, Senator.
Harris: Ok and so on this issue of whether or not you would be recused if you are nominated and actually voted in as the Administrator of the EPA, you have said that you will recuse yourself from the cases your office has been involved with if directed to do that. Do you agree that you also have the discretion to recuse yourself from those cases?
Pruitt: I believe, Senator, the rules of professional conduct in addition to the review that OGE...
Harris: Do you believe that you have the discretion to recuse yourself from the cases that you were involved with as Attorney General?
Pruitt: I actually believe it is stronger than that, Senator, I actually have an obligation in those instances as directed by Ethics Counsel and that is the reason I indicated earlier that I...
Harris: Independent of any direction from Ethics Counsel, do you agree you have the discretion to recuse yourself from those cases?
Pruitt: I believe that it is important to maintain....
Harris: I'm asking about whether or not you actually have the discretion, the power to recuse yourself, do you disagree or agree with that?
Pruitt: Clearly there is a discretion to recuse.
Harris: Clearly. You're familiar with the Clean Air Act, yes?
Pruitt: I'm sorry Senator?
Harris: You are familiar with the Clean Air Act?
Pruitt: I am.
Harris: And as you may know, Section 209 Subdivision B of the Clean Air Act recognizes California's authority to issue air pollution standards for new motor vehicles that go above and beyond federal standards. The EPA has historically recognized California's authority to issue new motor vehicle pollution standards that go above and beyond federal standards. In your opening statement, you write, "it is not EPA's mission to be against sectors of industry in general or against particular states." Will you commit, then, to upholding that same standard and recognizing California's authority to issue its own new motor vehicle pollution standards?
Pruitt: You know, Senator, as you indicated California was actually regulating those standards before the EPA was actually created which is why the California waiver exists under statute.
Harris: Do you agree to uphold that same standard that has been held by your previous administrators?
Pruitt: I agree to review that as each administrator before me has, it's been granted and times and not at times.
Harris: Do you agree to uphold it? Reviewing and upholding are two different points.
Pruitt: Senator, as you know, administrators in the past have not granted the waiver and in fact had granted the waiver. That is a review process that will be conducted if I am confirmed.
Harris: What is your intention, Sir?
Pruitt: I don't know without going through the process to determine that, Senator. And one would not want to presume the outcome.
Harris: In the fourteen cases that have been previously mentioned, in each of those cases regulated companies were also a party to your suits, is that correct?
Pruitt: In some instances, yes.
Harris: In most of them. Can you name a few instances in which you have filed a lawsuit in your independent capacity as Attorney General against a corporate entity for violating state or federal pollution laws?
Pruitt: Senator, I have a list here that has been provided...
Harris: Can you name them please?
Pruitt: Sure. There's a list that has been provided...
Harris: Can you name one?
Pruitt: Yes. The first is the Mahard Egg Farm, involving a CAFO situation and a clean-up of a large hen operation that affected water quality.
Harris: Did you file a lawsuit in that case, Sir?
Pruitt: I did, Senator.
Harris: Ok, and what was the outcome of that case?
Pruitt: We received a good outcome against them.
Harris: And the name of that entity was what?
Pruitt: Mahard Egg Farm.
Harris: And can you name any other cases where you have actually filed a lawsuit against a corporate entity for violating federal pollution laws?
Pruitt: In fact that case was brought in conjunction with the EPA, and I want to address something, Senator. Earlier, when you say independent capacity, those cases that you referred to, the list of cases were as an extension of the DEQ in the state of Oklahoma, an extension of agencies at the federal or state level that had authority granted to them by this body that we were vested to protect....
Harris: I understand that role as a former Attorney General but that is you representing your client, I am asking about your independent capacity as the Attorney General of your state.
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