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EPA head Scott Pruitt defends Paris exit

| Sunday, June 4, 2017, 5:15 p.m.
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt answers reporters' questions during a briefing at the White House June 2, 2017 in Washington.
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Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt answers reporters' questions during a briefing at the White House June 2, 2017 in Washington.

Scott Pruitt, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, on Sunday defended the U.S. exit from the Paris climate accord, saying it will benefit the country and create more jobs. He also repeated his refrain that questions about President Trump's personal views on climate change are beside the point.

“When we joined Paris, the rest of the world applauded ... because it put this country at disadvantage,” Pruitt told Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday.” “It's a bad deal for this country. We're going to make sure as we make deals we're going to put the interests of America first.”

Pruitt, 49, who stood beside Trump as he announced the decision Thursday, faced a grilling on several Sunday morning shows. Viewed as a huge influencer in the decision, the former Oklahoma attorney general has taken a lead role in undoing environmental regulations imposed under the Obama administration.

Pruitt has previously refused to say whether Trump remains skeptical of global warming — and he dug in on Sunday when pressed repeatedly by Wallace to say whether he has discussed the topic of climate change with Trump.

“As the president's EPA administrator, isn't that a conversation you need to have?” Wallace asked.

“The focus in the last several weeks was centered on the merits and demerits of the Paris climate agreement,” Pruitt responded. “The president has indicated the climate is changing, it's always changing. I've indicated the same.”

When asked whether he knows what the president believes, Pruitt told ABC's George Stephanopoulos that the question is “off the point.”

“Well, frankly, George, I think the whole question is an effort of trying to get it off the point,” Pruitt said. The bottom line, he said, is that the Paris agreement cost the U.S. jobs.

“We've had over 50,000 ... coal jobs, mining jobs created in this country” in the last few months, Pruitt said. “This president's deregulation agenda, particularly in the energy space, is making a substantial impact around the country.”

Wallace challenged Pruitt on appearing to prioritize coal-sector jobs over green-energy jobs. “Aren't you and the president talking about protecting the horse and buggy just as cars come online?” Wallace asked.

“No,” Pruitt responded. “I think what's also being missed here is when you look at how we generate power in this country, we need fuel diversity.”

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