Pruitt: Goal is to roll EPA back from 'weaponized' past

Pruitt: Goal is to roll EPA back from 'weaponized' past
© Greg Nash

While environmentalists lash out at the Trump administration over blocked Obama-era regulations, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittZinke left some details off public calendar: report EPA watchdog faults ‘management weaknesses’ in Flint water crisis House completes first half of 2019 spending bills MORE says they should first look at Congress.

On the New York Time's podcast the "The Daily" on Friday, Pruitt said his main motive in taking the job at the agency was to fix it by stripping actions taken by previous administrations — actions he believes only Congress has the authority to take. If that means Congress is left filling in the blanks, he suggested that's not his concern.

"We are housed in the Executive Branch, and your job is to enforce the law — the only authority I have is from Congress — largely what has happened with the past administration, they made it up," said Pruitt. "The fact that Congress is dysfunctional and is not updating the Clean Air Act or the Clean Water Act or all of these statutes that we administer, the fact that Congress isn’t doing that doesn’t mean EPA can say, 'We're going to do it in your place.' "

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Pruitt said the old EPA frequently picked sides and his goal in heading the agency, which he's lead for almost a year, is to instead strip it back to its basic function of law enforcement, which he calls "EPA originalism."

"The agency took a perspective for a number of years that's prohibition. Though we’ve been blessed with natural resources that help us literally feed the world and power the world, that we should not develop those natural resources that we should put fences up and we should prohibit that," Pruitt said. "And so in some respects ... the rulemaking that was being deployed by the agency was weaponized in the sense that it was picking winners and losers."

That weaponization, he said, was the authority the EPA took to determine what types of energy should be supported, such as coal versus solar.

"Weaponized in the sense of saying we are going to favor certain outcomes in the market with respect to energy and the environment — that’s not the role of a regulator," he said.

With regards to climate change, Pruitt reinforced his thoughts that the climate is changing, but chastised scientists who have predicted global temperatures in the future.

"There are things we know and things we don’t know. I think it’s pretty arrogant for people in 2018 to say, 'We know what the ideal surface temperature should be in the year 2100,'" said Pruitt.

"I think the debate about the impact of Co2 is important for us to wrestle with as a country. There are some who believe it causes an existential threat and it’s tomorrow. There are some who thought it was more important than ISIS. I can tell you that if that issue is more important than ISIS, I want to know about it."