Key moments from Scott Pruitt’s confirmation hearing

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Key moments from Scott Pruitt’s confirmation hearing

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Nearly 450 former Environmental Protection Agency employees Monday urged Congress to reject President Trump’s nominee to run the agency, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, even as current employees in Chicago sent the same message during a noon rally.

“We retirees, we tend to like to lay low. But this has gotten a bunch of us quite concerned,” said Bruce Buckheit, whose three decades in government included working in the EPA’s enforcement division under the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations.

Republicans have defended Pruitt as a capable leader who will return the agency to its core mission of protecting the environment while rolling back what they see as years of regulatory overreach that has unnecessarily burdened industry. A coalition of nearly two-dozen conservative advocacy groups has backed his nomination, insisting that Pruitt has “demonstrated his commitment to upholding the Constitution and ensuring the EPA works for American families and consumers.”

Buckheit was among the former agency officials who signed onto Monday’s letter imploring senators to vote against confirming Pruitt because of his opposition to the EPA in recent years. In lawsuits, Pruitt has challenged the agency’s legal authority to regulate toxic mercury pollution, smog, carbon emissions from power plants and the quality of wetlands and other waters.

“Our perspective is not partisan,” the group wrote, noting that many of the 447 names on the letter had served as career employees under both Republican and Democratic administrations. “However, every EPA administrator has a fundamental obligation to act in the public’s interest based on current law and the best available science. Mr. Pruitt’s record raises serious questions about whose interests he has served to date and whether he agrees with the long-standing tenets of U.S. environmental law.”

The former officials said Pruitt “has gone to disturbing lengths to advance the views and interests of business” — a reference to his close ties to the fossil fuel industry, with which he often has sided in his cases against the EPA. “By contrast, there is little or no…