U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, announced Wednesday that she will oppose the confirmation of Scott Pruitt to become administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
In doing so, she joins Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, who told Maine Public in a Jan. 20 interview that he could not support a nominee who as Oklahoma attorney general had filed suit against the EPA 14 times, has opposed the Clean Power Plan and disputed the Clean Air Act's authority, including rules requiring coal-fired plants to cut mercury emissions by 90%.
The Hill reported earlier this week that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was working to have an initial vote on Pruitt's nomination today, with a final vote likely to occur on Friday.
In a written statement, Collins stated that after meeting with Pruitt and reviewing testimony from his confirmation hearing, she has decided to oppose his confirmation.
"The fact is, Mr. Pruitt and I have fundamentally different views of the role and mission of the EPA," she said. "That does not mean that I agree with every regulatory action that EPA has taken. At times, the agency has been difficult to work with and unresponsive to bipartisan congressional concerns. But the EPA plays a vital role in implementing and enforcing landmark laws that protect not only our environment but also public health."
Collins continued: "I have significant concerns that Mr. Pruitt has actively opposed and sued EPA on numerous issues that are of great importance to the state of Maine, including mercury controls for coal-fired power plants and efforts to reduce cross-state air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. His actions leave me with considerable doubts about whether his vision for the EPA is consistent with the agency's critical mission to protect human health and the environment.
She concluded: "I reject the false choice of pitting the environment against the economy because for much of the state of Maine, the economy and the environment are inextricably linked. A strong commitment to protecting the health of our nation's environment is critical for protecting Maine's natural beauty, the state's economy, and the health of those of us fortunate enough to call Maine home."
Lisa Pohlmann, executive director of the Natural Resources Council of Maine, issued a statement Wednesday praising Collins and King for their opposition to Pruitt.
"Thousands of Mainers — including leading scientists, doctors, lobstermen and constituents from around the state — expressed opposition and alarm to a Pruitt-led EPA," she said in a written statement. "We are grateful that our senators have spoken out for the best interests of Maine people. Scott Pruitt is especially bad for Maine, where our economy, health, and way of life depend on a clean environment. Pollution from beyond our borders threatens our health, yet Scott Pruitt has been a champion for the polluting industries that send that pollution to Maine."
Nisha Swinton, senior organizer with Food & Water Watch, issued this statement: "In announcing that she will not support Trump EPA pick Scott Pruitt, Sen. Collins has shown that she listened to the thousands of Mainers who called her office, wrote her letters and marched outside her offices. This brave decision shows that Sen. Collins is committed to protecting our environment from corporate polluters. The Trump administration poses a real threat to clean air and water, and we expect her to join in us for the long haul as we resist Trump's dangerous, pro-polluting agenda."
Finally, Laura Dorle, campaign director with Environment Maine, issued the following statement:
"As the only member of her party to thus far make this commitment, we want Sen. Collins to know that we have her back on this issue. … Mainers and all Americans deserve an EPA administrator who will fight to protect the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the planet we love. Scott Pruitt fails on all these accounts. The Senate must stand with science. The Senate must stand up for our families' health, clean water and clean air. ... We hope that [Sen. Collins and Sen. King's] colleagues in the Senate will follow in their leadership and commit to vote no."
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