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Science & Environment

Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin On Pruitt Resignation

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

For some reaction to the Pruitt news today, let's bring in Democratic Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland. He's a member of the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works. Senator Cardin, welcome back to the program.

BEN CARDIN: Well, it's good to be with you. Thank you.

KELLY: So what is your reaction to the news today that Scott Pruitt is out?

CARDIN: Well, I'm wondering what took the president so long and Mr. Pruitt so long. Clearly his ethical breaches were so serious. It's hard to understand why the president would allow him to remain as the EPA director. The only thing you can think of is that his actions on following the Trump agenda on EPA was more important than his ethics to the president. So clearly with - his record on ethics violations is very serious, and he should - firstly, he never should have been EPA director, and clearly his resignation was long overdue.

KELLY: Well, I'll note that you opposed his nomination in the first place because of his views on climate change he's - which he's been skeptical about.

CARDIN: Absolutely, for several reasons. He of course filed lawsuits against the Chesapeake Bay Program. He has been on the wrong side of climate. He - the wrong side of the U.S. participating with the global community on climate issues. There's a lot of reasons why I've felt from a policy point of view his views were out of step with what's important to America.

KELLY: You mentioned the allegations of ethics violations, all of which we should note Scott Pruitt has denied repeatedly. Is that something that your committee will continue to investigate?

CARDIN: Well, clearly we want to make it clear that ethics are not a suggestion but a staple of good government. And it's critically important that when you have a position such as Mr. Pruitt's, you must adhere to the strictest ethics standards, which from the beginning he did not.

KELLY: So, again, is that something that your committee will continue to track?

CARDIN: I think our committee needs to make sure that these practices will no longer be tolerated by the EPA or by any of the areas under our committee's jurisdiction.

KELLY: Let me ask you about Andrew Wheeler. This is the current deputy. He will take over the role as acting head of the EPA next week. He's a former coal lobbyist. Do you support his nomination? Should it be made for the permanent job?

CARDIN: Well, I have difficulty with his policy positions. On his ethics, let me be clear. I - there's no reason for me to suspect that he has violated ethics issues. All that will be vetted if he is nominated to be the EPA director. At this point, I would hope the president would reach out in the tradition of both Democratic and Republican administrations and appoint the EPA administrator that is committed to protecting our environment.

KELLY: Last question, and it's a big-picture one - but assess the impact that Scott Pruitt has in fact had on the EPA during his time there.

CARDIN: Mr. Pruitt was extremely active in carrying out Mr. Trump's commitment to eliminate a lot of our protections for our environment, to make it a lot easier for energy companies to be able to get fossil fuels, including in pristine areas of our country. He was very much engaged in countering what science has taught us in regards to how to protect our environment. So I think his legacy was one of weakening clean air, weakening clean water.

KELLY: That is Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland. Senator, thanks for your time.

CARDIN: Good to be with you. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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