February 22 2017
On Scott Pruitt’s first day at the Environmental Protection Agency, he gave a speech to staff, outlining a clear vision for the agency.
“We as an agency and we as a nation can be both pro-energy and jobs and pro-environment,” Pruitt said. “That we don’t have to choose between the two. I think our nation has done better than any nation in the world at making sure we do the job of protecting our natural resources and protecting our environment while also respecting the economic growth and jobs our nation seeks to have.”
The Obama administration’s reliance on executive action for environmental regulation drew criticism—as well as lawsuits, including several brought by Pruitt, himself.
Pruitt said he would seek to exercise only authority granted explicitly to the EPA by Congress. “We need to respect that,” he said. “We need to follow that. Because when we do that, guess what happens? We avoid litigation.”
As Oklahoma’s attorney general, Pruitt spoke often about the importance of allowing states to develop their own environmental and energy policies, based on their unique resources, geography and the needs of their residents. He picked up on that theme yesterday, saying, “Federalism matters.”
The Washington Post noted that Pruitt’s speech touched heavily on themes of civility, federalism, process and rule of law. “By contrast he did not talk much about the agency’s actual goals, such as preserving clean air and clean water,” wrote the newspaper’s two environmental reporters.
But Pruitt got it right. Over the past eight years, the EPA has issued around 4,000 regulations, including many with major economic implications.
Too often, the Obama administration’s environmental policies stood on dubious legal footing. And in some cases, like with the Clean Power Plan, the scientific case for such sweeping regulation was also questionable. The policy would reduce global warming by just two-hundredths of a degree Celsius by 2100, but it would cost hundreds of billions.
These policies have hit consumers hard, jacking up the cost of everything from utilities to gasoline to commodities to food. Pruitt is right to slow down, focusing on policies that make legal, economic and scientific sense.