U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley has spent the morning grilling Donald Trump's pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency, Oklahoma Attorney General, oil-industry shill and climate-change denier Scott Pruitt.
Merkley is one of seven Democrats on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, which Pruitt must clear before his appointment can be confirmed by the Senate as a whole. There are ten Republicans and one independent on the committee, meaning Pruitt's confirmation is likely.
Environmentally-conscious Democrats like Merkley are trying to make him squirm, at least, before he assumes control of the federal agency most responsible for limiting the carbon emissions that an overwhelming majority of climate scientists say are warming the seas, melting the polar ice caps, messing with seasonal weather patterns and accelerating mass extinctions of thousands of species, perhaps eventually including our own.
Pruitt this morning contradicted Trump's stated views, saying, "I do not believe climate change is a hoax." However, he denied that human activity was to blame for the observed warming trend—parroting a longstanding industry talking point designed to muddy the waters around climate change science.
Merkley came to the hearing prepared with props. Per ABC News:
Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., today presented a blown-up copy of a letter that Pruitt sent to the EPA as Oklahoma attorney general that was heavily drafted by oil company Devon Energy.
“Why do you need an outside oil company to draft a letter when you have 250 people working for you?” Merkley asked.
“That was an effort that was protecting the state’s interest in making sure that we made the voices of all Oklahomans heard on a very important industry to our state,” Pruitt replied.”But you only sent it on behalf of a single voice, the oil company,” Merkley shot back.
In later questioning, Merkley said Pruitt's record cast doubt on his integrity and personal character.
"I, as a Senator from Oregon, deeply resent folks fighting for the oil industry who are trying to damage the health of my constituents," Merkley said. "To me this is a character issue, valuing profits over people's health."
The hearing is ongoing and can be seen live or archived on C-SPAN.