New Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt reiterated his commitment to states’ rights and a narrower role for the federal environmental regulator in his first speech to EPA staff on Feb. 21.
“I believe we as an agency and as a nation can be pro-energy and jobs and pro-environment,” he said. The Senate confirmed Pruitt as administrator Feb. 17 by a 52-46 vote.
In his speech, Pruitt did not lay out any rules he would pursue or roll back as administrator, focusing instead on how the agency will use only its statutory authority and will work “as partners and not adversaries” with state environmental agencies. Pruitt said the agency will avoid litigation, a nod to what Republicans called the “sue and settle” practices of the previous administration in which regulations were developed in response to lawsuits.
“We need to be open and transparent and objective in how we do rulemaking and make sure we follow the letter of the law as we do so because that would send, I think, a great message to those who are regulated," Pruitt said. "They want to know what’s expected of them."
While he didn’t detail any plans in his speech, in a Feb. 17 story in the Wall Street Journal Pruitt said he expects to quickly withdraw both the waters of the U.S. rule (WOTUS), which would establish EPA and Army Corps of Engineers jurisdiction over waterways currently not regulated by the federal government; and the Clean Power Plan, which would limit carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.
A Feb. 21 story in The Washington Post says that President Trump is preparing executive orders to withdraw both of those rules, and a federal moratorium on coal leasing. Repeal of the WOTUS rule would be welcomed by industry groups, including the Associated Builders and Contractors, which has called for the rule to be overturned.
“ABC is hopeful that President Trump’s background as a developer will lead to a return to certainty from the regulatory process that gives our members clarity regarding the rules they need to comply with and allows them to focus on growing their business and creating jobs,” the trade group said in a statement.
Environmental groups, which led a campaign to block Pruitt’s confirmation, said they will continue to fight Pruitt as administrator. “Scott Pruitt is the worst pick ever confirmed to lead the EPA,” said Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “He’s being sent there to hobble the agency we depend on to protect our health and environment.”