Pruitt Appointment Signals Big Changes at EPA

Published March 9, 2017

President Donald Trump’s appointment of Scott Pruitt as administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) indicates big changes are in store for the agency and the businesses, states, and people affected by its rules.

Pruitt was sworn in as the 14th EPA administrator by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito on February 17.

Reversing ‘Anti-Energy Agenda’

A press release issued the day president nominated Pruitt for EPA administrator quoted the Trump as saying, “For too long, the Environmental Protection Agency has spent taxpayer dollars on an out-of-control anti-energy agenda that has destroyed millions of jobs, while also undermining our incredible farmers and many other businesses and industries at every turn.

“[Pruitt] will reverse this trend and restore the EPA’s essential mission of keeping our air and our water clean and safe,” Trump in the statement.

Pruitt sued the agency to block regulations 14 times as Oklahoma’s attorney general and participated in multistate challenges to EPA regulations, including a successful suit in which the U.S. Supreme Court blocked EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics rule. Pruitt also participating in lawsuits that produced stays of EPA’s Waters of the United States regulation and its Clean Power Plan. In these cases, Pruitt argued EPA’s rules violated states’ rights, were unconstitutional, and went beyond the authority delegated to the agency.

In the hearing before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee considering his nomination, Pruitt described his vision for EPA as a smaller agency working within the bounds of the laws as written by Congress. Pruitt testified as Oklahoma’s attorney general he had seen “examples where the agency became dissatisfied with the tools Congress had given it to address certain issues, and bootstrapped its own powers and tools through rulemaking.”

‘Proven Leader’

Jacki Pick, executive vice president of the National Center for Policy Analysis, says she is enthusiastic about Pruitt’s appointment to head EPA.

“If there is a common thread in Trump’s cabinet selections, it is the nominee must have demonstrated a critical view of the agency he or she will be asked to lead,” Pick said. “Bold, public confrontations with EPA for an unlawful abuse of power earned Pruitt his place in the lineup. Scott Pruitt has been appropriately critical of government overreach, and this should give every American comfort a move forward to a legal, constitutional order will be realized under his guidance.”

Paul Driessen, a senior policy advisor to the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, says Pruitt is the right man for the job.

“Scott Pruitt understands energy, environmental and climate issues, and politics,” said Driessen. “Pruitt rejects the notion Washington, DC bureaucrats should have unfettered power to dictate people’s lives, livelihoods, and living standards, making him exactly what America needs at EPA to change course away from the fundamental shift in power from the states to the federal government the previous administration attempted to impose.”

Chip Roy, director of the Center for 10th Amendment Action at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, praised Trump for choosing an experienced reformer to head EPA.

“Scott Pruitt is a Washington, DC outsider and a proven leader,” said Roy. “Pruitt has a track record of taking on burdensome federal regulations while fighting to protect the right and ability of Oklahoma to protect its own environment.

“That kind of perspective and experience will dramatically improve the EPA, by greatly diminishing the agency’s attempts at overreach while focusing intently on the proper core tasks of its legislated mission,” Roy said.

H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. ([email protected]) is a research fellow at The Heartland Institute.