Donald Trump picks Scott Pruitt, a climate change skeptic, to head the EPA. What does this ironic pick mean for clean energy in America?

Scott Pruitt, the newly appointed head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), does not like the EPA. This is not an assessment — it’s a quote. As president-elect Donald Trump’s unorthodox transition seems to offer a new headline every day, many Americans have already turned their attention to last week’s selection. For those of us in the renewable energy industry and, more broadly, those concerned about climate goals, it’s worth taking moment to think about the potential ramifications of this move.

Scott Pruitt will be the first EPA head since the 1980’s (appointed by either party) to not accept scientific evidence that human activity is impacting the climate. In a National Review op-ed, Pruitt stated “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. That debate should be encouraged.”

As Attorney General of Oklahoma, Pruitt has championed the fossil fuel industry, including an unsuccessful attack on the EPA’s 2009 endangerment finding (which declared greenhouse gasses a danger to human health). Today, he remains one of the petitioners challenging the EPA over the Clean Power Plan, arguing that the use of the Clean Air Act to enact the Clean Power Plan circumvents the US’s system of checks and balances.

What both he and Mr. Trump might be missing it that the Environmental Protections Agency, itself, is a check, designed by a Republican administration to keep air and water safe from unbridled industry practices. Pruitt is a career EPA obstructionist with a history of close ties to the regulated industry. Putting him in charge is like asking your cat to watch your goldfish — and that is the threat to checks and balances.

Trump’s vision of a Pruitt EPA centers on continuing Pruitt’s legacy of facilitating the fossil fuel industry. Trump’s appointment announcement calls for the seemingly paradoxical plan of “eliminating all barriers to responsible energy production,” claiming that this will “release an energy revolution.” Perhaps a more in-touch leader would realize that the world is already in the midst of a renewable energy revolution. Choosing to instead focus on the tired energy practices of the last century is anything but revolutionary.

Now that Pruitt seems poised to continue his crusade against the Clean Power Plan from within, the good news is that it will not be as simple as unplugging a solar panel — there is a complicated ball of legal yarn to unravel. The EPA is legally charged, by Congress, to uphold the Clean Air Act. As long as the 2009 endangerment finding stands, failure to regulate greenhouse gas will result in legal action from the majority of Americans who support tougher coal regulation.

His likely first move will be to try and neuter the EPA by taking another swipe at the 2009 finding. However, his last attempt resulted in it being upheld in a DC Circuit Court, which carefully examined the scientific evidence. Absent strong contrasting evidence, this ruling makes the 2009 finding far more immune to further legal attack.

Even if Pruitt is able to clear these hurdles, we should remember that the future of renewables does not live and die by the outcome of the CPP. As Mr. Pruitt’s predecessor, Gina McCarthy, put it, “the train to a global clean energy future has already left the station.” A recent New York Times piece reiterated the idea that coal is now losing because of economics, not government interference. In it, the CEO of American Electric and Power stated “We will not be building large coal facilities. We’re not stopping what we’re not stopping what we’re doing based on the new administration. We need to make long-term capital decisions.”

If the industry is any bellwether, investors should not be overly concerned about Pruitt’s impact on American renewables, especially when it comes to the more proven technologies. While he may have the ability to create some ripples, he is not going to change the tide — the real energy revolution is, indeed, already under way.