New EPA Head Discusses Removing Environmental Regulations

By Yessenia Funes Feb 27, 2017

Scott Pruitt was confirmed as EPA administrator just 10 days ago, on February 17, yet he’s already taking steps to drastically alter the agency.

The former attorney general of Oklahoma spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) Saturday (February 25), where he described his plans to remove regulations created under former President Barack Obama. His top priorities include the Clean Power Plan and the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule.

The Clean Power Plan looks to reduce carbon emissions, particularly from coal power plants, and to increase renewable energy production. The WOTUS rule is under the Clean Water Act and works to protect waterways from pollution.

“We’re going to restore power back to the people,” Pruitt said to the audience, as seen in this video by The Guardian. “We’re going to recognize the regulatory uncertainty and the regulatory state needs to be reigned in. We’re going to make sure that the states are recognized for the authority they have, and we’re going to do the work that’s important to advance freedom and liberty for the future.”

While Pruitt alluded to regulation repeals coming this week, he wouldn’t comment on whether the agency should be abolished, The Guardian reports. He said it does important work in protecting air and water pollution but that critics are “justified” in wanting to see it gone.

His appearance at CPAC follows his reported decision on Friday (February 24) to appoint Samantha Dravis to lead the agency’s Office of Policy, which manages the EPA’s regulatory processes, according to Axios. Dravis served as policy director and general counsel for the Republican Attorneys General Association.

She denounced the Clean Power Plan in an op-ed for The Daily Caller in September 2016. Like Pruitt, she believes states should have the power to develop their energy policies as they see fit.

Amid all this, Pruitt is still facing an email controversy after the Center for Media and Democracy won a lawsuit to gain access to Pruitt’s correspondence with the oil and gas industry. Though the Oklahoma attorney general office released more than 7,000 pages of emails last week, on February 22, office officials are asking for more time to respond to five other data requests from the Center it had previously ignored. The Oklahoma Supreme Court will hear arguments tomorrow (February 28), The Hill reports.

And while Pruitt and his former team at the Oklahoma attorney general’s office deal with the email controversy, environmental organizations served Pruitt his first lawsuit as EPA head. On February 23, in federal court, Columbia Riverkeeper used the Clean Water Act to claim that the agency must take action to protect salmon in the Columbia and Snake rivers in Oregon and Washington, which are at risk due to the summer’s abnormally high temperatures.

Pruitt is infamous himself for suing the agency. He’s done so at least 14 times during his time as Oklahoma attorney general. Now, he must fight to defend the agency that he’s argued against in the past.