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Former Washington State Senator 'Very Excited' About Pruitt Confirmation To Head EPA

State of Oklahoma
Scott Pruitt, President Donald Trump's pick to head the EPA, was confirmed by the Senate Friday.

Former Washington state Sen. Don Benton said he’s “very excited” about the confirmation of Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency. Benton is a senior adviser to the White House at EPA.

Don Benton was President Donald Trump’s campaign chairman in Washington and led the President’s EPA transition. Now the southwest Washington Republican has a permanent role advising the President on EPA matters.

“Working for him is one of the greatest honors of my life,” Benton said.

Speaking personally and not as a spokesman for EPA, Benton said he expects Trump to issue executive orders aimed at reducing environmental regulations and giving power back to the states. But Benton also said the EPA’s commitment to public health won’t change.

He offered praise for the agency and its staff.

“There’s no question that the Environment Protection Agency does tremendously powerful work in protecting citizens’ health and safety from environmental concerns,” Benton said.

But Benton said he can’t speculate how Trump and Pruitt will direct the agency’s work.

Previously, Benton was Environmental Director for Clark County. He said Trump’s transition “beachhead team” at EPA had a “very good” relationship with agency staff. However, current and former agency staff have opposed and even protested Trump’s selection of Scott Pruitt to head EPA. While Attorney General of Oklahoma, Pruitt sued the EPA repeatedly and often was allied with energy companies that challenged EPA rules and regulations.

Benton said he does not expect actions the Trump administration takes to affect Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s efforts to cap carbon emissions or the state’s implementation of new water quality standards aimed at protecting people who consume large amounts of fish.

Last November, EPA found that parts of Washington’s new standards are not stringent enough to meet EPA requirements.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."