The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of the next four years is going to be a very different beast than the EPA under the presidency of Barack Obama, newly confirmed EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said on February 25 while addressing the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). “We’re going to restore power back to the people. We’re going to recognize the regulatory uncertainty and the regulatory state needs to be reined in. We’re going to make sure that the states are recognized with the authority that they have,” Pruitt said.
Pruitt was sworn in as administer of the EPA February 17 after a controversial confirmation process. The former Oklahoma Attorney General was a vocal critic of the EPA during the Obama administration and sued the agency numerous times.
According to Pruitt, the EPA overreached its authority consistently over the course of the last eight years. In fact, Pruitt said, the EPA has been so tyrannical that conservatives are justified in wanting to abolish the agency altogether. “The agency that I’m tasked to lead at this point has been used by the previous administration to truly impact our country in ways that we never could have imagined eight years ago. Jobs have been impacted. The authority that Washington, D.C., has—the assumption of power and the accumulation of power—they’ve taken advantage of that, and so I think it’s justified. I think people across this country look at the EPA much like they look at the [Internal Revenue Service] and I hope to be able to change that,” Pruitt said.
Pruitt’s EPA will operate differently, he said, laying out three guiding principles: respect for the rule-making process; respect to the rule of law; and true cooperative federalism. “As we look forward to the next four years, I think what we should do at this point is recognize that we should have hope and optimism, that we’re going to go out and see a trajectory, a new day of freedom,” he said.
Getting on a path to build off Pruitt’s guiding principles will require undoing some actions of the Obama administration, including the Clean Power Plan and the Waters of the United States rule. “I think there are some regulations that in the near term need to be rolled back in a very aggressive way and I think maybe next week you may be hearing about some of those as it relates to some of these key issues,” Pruitt said.
Pruitt applauded President Donald Trump, saying that he “is leading with great decisiveness … is expressing great action, is saying we’re going to fix that. I’m so thankful. I’m so thankful that I’ve got that kind of leader in the White House so we can go to the EPA to get all those things fixed now and we should celebrate that.”
During the Trump administration, Pruitt suggested that the EPA would work more closely with states to ensure that the actions of the agency are not in conflict with the needs of the states. “We’re going to once again pay attention to the states across this country. I believe that people in Oklahoma, in Texas, in Indiana, in Ohio, in New York, in California, and all of the states across the country, they care about the air they breathe, and they care about the water they drink, and we’re going to be partners with those individuals, not advisories. The EPA is going to be a partner to make sure that we advance environmental issues and restore the issue of federalism,” Pruitt said.
—Abby L. Harvey is a POWER reporter.