President-elect Donald Trump has selected Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt — a climate-change denier and Southern Baptist layman who sits on the board of trustees at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary — to run the Environmental Protection Agency.
Trump’s transition team confirmed the selection of Pruitt, a member and deacon at First Baptist Church in Broken Arrow, Okla., elected to the Southern Baptist Convention seminary’s trustee board in 2012, in a statement released to media Dec. 8.
Pruitt, a native of Kentucky who earned his undergraduate degree from Baptist-affiliated Georgetown College before entering law school at the University of Tulsa, is a leading critic of the agency he is selected to lead and skeptic of scientific evidence linking greenhouse gas emissions to climate change.
“For too long, the Environmental Protection Agency has spent taxpayer dollars on an out-of-control anti-energy agenda that has destroyed millions of jobs, while also undermining our incredible farmers and many other businesses and industries at every turn,” Trump said in a press release. He said Pruitt “will reverse this trend and restore the EPA’s essential mission of keeping our air and our water clean and safe.”
Pruitt is part of a coalition of state attorneys general currently suing the EPA over President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, a signature effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in keeping with promises of last year’s Paris climate accord. He was featured in a 2014 New York Times investigation documenting a “secretive alliance” between a number of Republican attorneys general and the energy industry. Pruitt’s official attorney general biography describes him as “a leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda.”
“The American people are tired of seeing billions of dollars drained from our economy due to unnecessary EPA regulations, and I intend to run this agency in a way that fosters both responsible protection of the environment and freedom for American businesses,” Pruitt was quoted as saying in the release from the Trump transition team.
Southern Baptist Convention leaders who were critical of Trump’s candidacy prior to the election praised Pruitt’s selection to run the federal agency safeguarding human health and the environment created by executive order of President Nixon in 1970.
“Congratulation to @SBTS trustee @AGScottPruitt, OK AG, just named head of US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA),” Southern Seminary President Albert Mohler posted on Twitter. Russell Moore, head of the SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, extended “Congratulations to my friend @AGScottPruitt, who has been named to head the EPA.”
Pruitt grew up in Lexington, Ky., where he graduated from high school and earned a scholarship to play baseball as a second baseman at the University of Kentucky. He finished his bachelor’s degree in communications and political science at Georgetown College, at the time affiliated with the Kentucky Baptist Convention, in 1990.
After passing the Oklahoma bar exam Pruitt worked in private practice five years specializing in constitutional and employment law in a firm called Christian Legal Services. He served eight years in the state Senate before becoming co-owner and managing general partner of the Oklahoma City Redhawks Triple-A baseball team for seven years.
Since his election as 17th attorney general of the state of Oklahoma in 2010, Pruitt has gone on record opposing same-sex marriage and abortion. An LGBT advocate labeled him “head bully” in opposition to 2016 guidelines by the federal government suggesting transgender and gender nonconforming students be permitted to use public restrooms corresponding to their gender identity rather than the sex assigned on their birth certificate.
Pruitt fought a 2015 ruling by the Oklahoma Supreme Court ordering removal of a Ten Commandments monument on the state Capitol grounds. Bruce Prescott, a retired Baptist minister who filed the lawsuit claiming the monument violated a constitution ban on state-sponsored religion, called Pruitt’s appointment to head up the EPA “worse than a fox guarding the hen house.”
The Sierra Club released a statement calling Pruitt “unfit” to lead the EPA.
“Having Scott Pruitt in charge of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is like putting an arsonist in charge of fighting fires,” said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune. “He is a climate science denier who, as Attorney General for the state of Oklahoma, regularly conspired with the fossil fuel industry to attack EPA regulations.”
“Nothing less than our children’s health is at stake,” said Brune, head of the 124-year-old conservationist group now billed as America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization.