WASHINGTON — A legal fight to clean up tons of chicken manure fouling the waters of Oklahoma’s bucolic northeastern corner — much of it from neighboring Arkansas — was in full swing six years ago when the conservative lawyer Scott Pruitt took office as Oklahoma’s attorney general.
His response: Put on the brakes.
Rather than push for a federal judge to punish the companies by extracting perhaps tens of millions of dollars in damages, Oklahoma’s new chief law enforcement officer quietly negotiated a deal to simply study the problem further.
The move came after he had taken tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from executives and lawyers for the poultry industry.
It was one of a series of instances in which Mr. Pruitt put cooperation with industry before confrontation as he sought to blunt the impact of federal environmental policies in his state — against oil, gas, agriculture and other interests. His antipathy to federal regulation — he sued the Environmental Protection Agency 14 times — in many ways defined his tenure as Oklahoma’s attorney general.
Now, Mr. Pruitt, tapped to head Donald J. Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency, will have the opportunity to engineer a radical shift in Washington. If confirmed by the Senate, he is expected to shelve the Obama administration’s aggressive environmental enforcement and embrace a more collaborative approach with the industries that the agency is charged with policing, many of which have helped him advance his political career.
The impact would stretch from the nation’s waterways to the planet’s climate, since the E.P.A. carries out and enforces rules to combat global warming.
“He has advocated and stood up for the profits of business, be it the poultry companies or the energy industry and other polluters, at the expense of people who have to drink the water or breathe the air,” said Mark Derichsweiler, who led the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality division responsible for overseeing the poultry-related cleanup. Mr. Derichsweiler retired in 2015 after 40 years with the state, frustrated with Mr. Pruitt’s approach.