Scott Pruitt a needed change for the EPA
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President Obama once reminded us that “elections have consequences.” He might have added that sometimes those consequences fulfill the aims of the electorate — a point that critics like Gov. Christine Todd Whitman would be well to contemplate.

In her precipitate condemnation of President-elect Trump’s selection of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Gov. Whitman opines ruefully that Mr. Pruitt “obviously doesn’t care much for the agency or any of the regulations it has promulgated.”

This claim can be faulted for being overly broad, but in one sense it expresses precisely what he’s charged with doing — changing the way the EPA pursues its mission. The voting public have made quite clear that they feel the EPA has significantly and consistently overreached, and thereby failed.

That’s not to say that there’s no role for the EPA, and, indeed, when Gov. Whitman accuses Attorney General Pruitt of being “disdainful of the agency,” she’s ignoring the fact that he has unequivocally asserted its necessity to protecting clean air and water.

What he objects to is Obama's EPA repeatedly overstepping its constitutional boundaries, disrespecting the states and promulgating regulations that are excessive, costly, job-killing, and not conducive to improving the environment.

When Scott Pruitt established a federalism unit in Oklahoma, it was in service to assuring the public’s investment in clean energy was not wasted by federal bureaucrats heedless of the needs, capabilities, and common sense of the states. At the same time, he hoped to ensure that energy of all types would be developed responsibly. 

Similarly, Gov. Whitman’s concern that Mr. Pruitt rejects, “the science behind what the agency does,” is yet another piece of fake news. He has not only acknowledged that our climate is changing; he has said that human activity is a factor.

Even better, Scott Pruitt takes a more scientifically sound approach than his critics do, insisting that data be heeded objectively and that reasoned debate—not orthodoxy—inform our policies. He knows, as I do from my background as a physician, that science is never “settled’ — it requires constant study and re-evaluation of existing conclusions. 

Gov. Whitman and her fellow “Pruitt skeptics” should be reassured by the many examples of the attorney general’s respect for the environment. Pruitt negotiated a historic water rights settlement with his state’s Indian tribes that preserved the ecosystems of scenic lakes and rivers for generations to come.

He also commissioned a fresh study of phosphorus load data for an agreement between Arkansas and Oklahoma to reduce pollution in the Illinois River. In addition, he's represented Oklahomans in numerous actions against industrial polluters and in utility rate cases.

Pruitt is accomplished, dedicated, and committed to achieving the balance that the Obama EPA failed to strike between environmental protection and economic prosperity. He’s clearly equipped to manage the agency’s personnel and protocols to deliver maximum effectiveness — melding an evidence-based scientific approach with respect for the public cost of imposition.

Gov. Whitman, the Bush-era predecessor to Attorney General Pruitt at the EPA, deserves credit for her service to the country. Regrettably, Whitman was out of sync with her party and most of the country in the last election, supporting Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump to declassify controversial text messages, documents related to Russia probe Hypocrisy in Kavanaugh case enough to set off alarms in DC Clinton: Hard to ignore 'racial subtext of virtually everything Trump says' MORE

Now that the people have spoken, the president-elect and his EPA nominee deserve the opportunity to prove they can assure the kind of stewardship of our air, land, water, and wildlife intended by the Republican administration that brought the EPA into existence.

The pair especially deserve that consideration from Republicans who aspire to lift unnecessary burdens that have crippled our economy and harmed our competitiveness. Those burdens have made it hard for most Americans to tap into personal resources that facilitate market investment in clean energy and conservation — a major component of truly enhancing environmental protection. 

Gov. Whitman, and others who have leapt to unnecessarily histrionic conclusions, should take heart in the real-world evidence — Scott Pruitt gives every indication that we can be confident in his intentions and his abilities to make the EPA better and stronger.

 

Nan Hayworth, M.D., is a former U.S. Representative for New York's 19th Congressional District.


 

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