President-elect Donald J. Trump plans to nominate Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma’s attorney general, to fill the top post at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Trump transition team confirmed on Dec. 7. One day later, the team announced that Andrew Puzder, a fast-food company executive, was the choice to head the Labor Dept.
Both nominees, if confirmed, likely would take their agencies in a new direction and seek to loosen regulations. Pruitt currently is involved in the multistate legal challenge to the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan and has said climate-change science is not “settled.”
Pruitt also opposes the so-called Clean Water Rule, the joint EPA-Army Corps of Engineers regulation that clarifies when a federal Clean Water Act construction permit is needed. Many construction groups have said the rule expands, rather than simply clarifies, EPA's jurisdiction.
Some Democrats and environmental advocates say they plan to fight the nomination.
Business-oriented groups are more supportive of Pruitt. Brian Turmail, a spokesman for the Associated General Contractors of America, says AGC has worked with Republican and Democratic administrations to educate federal agencies about the construction industry. “We stand ready to support him and the [EPA] as they, hopefully, work to identify more effective ways to protect the environment in ways that also protect high-paying jobs in sectors such as construction,” he said in an email to ENR.
Turmail added, “We expect to explain how well-meaning measures often have a negative impact on economic growth while doing little to protect the environment.”
Scott Segal—head of Bracewell Policy Resolutions Group and part of law firm Bracewell, which focuses on government affairs and energy—called Pruitt “a measured and articulate student of environmental law and policy.” In an emailed statement, Segal said that, as attorney general, Pruitt has been active in “the battle to keep EPA faithful to its statutory authority and respectful of the role of the states in our system of cooperative federalism. These skills will serve him well.”
Environmental groups are preparing for a battle. Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters, said Pruitt has close ties to the fossil-fuel industry. “Scott Pruitt running the EPA is like the fox guarding the henhouse,” he said in a statement. “Like fellow Oklahoman Sen. [James] Inhofe [R], Pruitt is an outright climate denier who has ignored settled science for political points,” Karpinski said.
Puzder, Trump's pick to lead the Labor Dept., has said he opposes the recently finalized overtime regulation and increasing the minimum wage. He is CEO of the CKE restaurants, which franchises Hardee's and Carl's Jr. outlets.
Maurice Baskin, chair of the construction law practice at Littler Mendleson in Washington, D.C., called Puzder a “great choice.” Baskin, who also is the Associated Builders and Contractors general counsel, said news reports “certainly suggest that he would not support the Obama regulations,” such as the overtime rule.
Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), the incoming chair of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, said in a statement that she looked forward to working with Puzder. She added, “There is a lot of work ahead to strengthen protections for workers, improve retirement security, lift the regulatory burden on small businesses, and restore balance and fairness to labor policies.”
But Sen. Patty Murray (Wash.), the top Democrat on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said she would "work tirelessly" to ensure that Puzder goes through a rigorous confirmation process. “At the outset, I am deeply concerned by Mr. Puzder's record of standing in the way of progress on issues that would make an immediate difference in the lives of working families,” Murray said in a statement.
Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, said in a Dec. 8 blog, “Andy Puzder’s nomination is one of many Trump Cabinet appointments that are in direct conflict with the rhetoric of his campaign. The President-elect campaigned on standing up for working people, yet his actions thus far have undermined these claims.”
Story updated on Dec. 9 with selection of Andew Puzder as nominee for Labor Dept.