Trump’s labour and environment cabinet picks alarm opponents

Climate change sceptic to run EPA and fast-food mogul in line for labour secretary


Donald Trump’s nomination of a climate change sceptic to run the Environmental Protection Agency and a fast-food restaurant tycoon opposed to higher minimum wages to be the next labour secretary has put the US president-elect on a collision course with environmentalists and trade unions.

The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times reported that Mr Trump would name Andrew Puzder, the man who runs the company behind burger chains Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr and is an outspoken critic of President Barack Obama’s protections for workers, to run the department of labour.

Mr Puzder has criticised Mr Obama’s executive actions to improve overtime pay for workers and his federal minimum wage increases, arguing that they would lead to reduced hours, salaries and bonuses.

The US president-elect’s decision to recruit Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt, a supporter of the fossil fuel industry and opponent of government environmental regulations, for the EPA has infuriated conservationists and been enthusiastically welcomed by the oil and gas industry.

His pick shows the incoming Republican president’s intent to roll back on Mr Obama’s measures to curb climate change, a key agenda of his tenure in the White House, as Mr Trump aims to create jobs with a revived coal industry and new drilling for fossil fuel.

‘Destroyed millions of jobs’

“For too long, the Environmental Protection Agency has spent taxpayer dollars on an out-of-control anti-agenda that has destroyed millions of jobs, while also undermining our incredible farmers and many other businesses and industries at every turn,” the president-in-waiting was quoted as saying in a statement.

Mr Pruitt would “reverse this trend and restore the EPA’s essential mission of keeping our air and our water clean and safe,” he said.

An opponent of Mr Obama’s Clean Power Plan that aims to reduce carbon emissions from power plants, the Oklahoma law officer has joined with other state attorneys general to sue EPA over its regulations.

In a legal action last year, Mr Pruitt accused the agency of ignoring congressional authority and described the plan as “an unlawful attempt to expand federal bureaucrats’ authority over states’ energy economics in order to shutter coal-fired power plans and eventually other sources of fossil-fuel generated electricity”.

Writing in the conservative National Review in May, he disputed the overwhelming scientific consensus that climate change was caused by human activity and a reliance on fossil fuels.

‘Climate denier’

“That debate is far from settled. Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind,” he said.

Former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders described Mr Pruitt as a “climate denier who’s worked closely with the fossil fuel industry. That’s sad and dangerous”.

Environmentalists were equally alarmed. “Scott Pruitt running the EPA is like the fox guarding the hen house,” said Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters.

Mr Trump’s stance on the environment, like on many issues, has vacillated wildly, shifting from saying that climate change was a Chinese-inspired hoax and promising to close the EPA during the campaign to admitting after his election that there was “some connectivity” between climate change and human activity and wavering on whether he would pull out of the Paris climate change agreement.