Scott Pruitt is leading the EPA toward greatness

Scott Pruitt is leading the EPA toward greatness
© Greg Nash

In the first season of Donald’s Trump “Presidential Apprentice,” there’s no question who the star hire of his administration has been: EPA Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittGovernment watchdog probing EPA’s handling of Hurricane Harvey response Wheeler won’t stop America’s addiction to fossil fuels Overnight Energy: Trump rolls back methane pollution rule | EPA watchdog to step down | China puts tariffs on US gas MORE.

As a candidate for president, Trump argued the massive regulatory state headquartered in Washington was destroying jobs, restricting economic growth, and preventing America from becoming great again. Trump particularly directed his condemnation at EPA, which had grossly overstepped its legal authority by imposing regulations that did little to protect human health or the environment, but were costing the United States jobs, undermining our international economic competitiveness, and raising energy prices.

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Few people understood the extent to which EPA had exceeded their legal authority and expanded it control over peoples’ lives better than Pruitt. As Oklahoma’s attorney general, Pruitt fervently and effectively fought to protect Oklahomans against federal overreach and to defend sound energy and environmental policy. Pruitt successfully sued the EPA numerous times, including convincing the courts to place stays on the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule and the Clean Power Plan (CPP).

 

Now that Pruitt has served a full year as EPA administrator, it is a good time to assess his accomplishments. Pruitt has redirected EPA’s efforts away from “ideological crusades,” making huge strides in returning the agency’s focus to the core functions assigned to it by Congress: working cooperatively with states to ensure the nation’s air, waters, and lands are cleaner.

Trump and Pruitt share an understanding that climate change is not a significant threat to the prosperity and health of Americans. As such, when Trump directed EPA to review the 2016 Clean Power Plan — which forced states and companies to undertake a wholesale overhaul of their electric power supply, largely removing affordable, reliable coal-powered power plants from the mix—Pruitt reported back the plan violated the 1970 Clean Air Act and states’ rightful control of their electric power systems. Pruitt then rescinded the CPP.

To improve transparency and accountability, Pruitt ended the agency’s use of sue-and-settle agreements, which radical environmentalists and collaborators within the EPA secretly used for years to dictate energy and environmental policy outside of the transparency of the public regulatory process. Pruitt also cleared Obama holdovers from the EPA Science Advisory Committees and issued a directive ensuring members of its Federal Advisory Committees are not receiving EPA grants and have no other conflicts of interest.

Helping Trump keep his commitment to rescind two regulations for every new regulation, under Pruitt’s leadership the EPA finalized 22 deregulatory actions, saving American families and businesses more than $1 billion in regulatory costs.

After Trump issued an executive order directing the EPA to review and rescind the overreaching WOTUS rule, which had been issued in 2015, Pruitt’s EPA quickly responded by postponing the rule’s date of implementation to 2020. This offers property owners and states regulatory certainty while the agency revises WOTUS to safeguard property rights and to ensure the regulation is actually consistent with the law and Supreme Court rulings.

With little media attention, the EPA under Pruitt has stepped up its efforts to clean the nation’s most toxic Superfund sites, putting the properties back into productive use. In 2016, Obama’s EPA remediated and removed only two sites from Superfund’s national priorities list (NPL). By comparison, in Pruitt’s first year, EPA cleaned up and removed seven sites from the NPL. It’s amazing what the agency can do when it focuses its efforts on core functions.

Under Obama, the EPA rejected or refused to accept dozens of state implementation plans (SIPs) to clean up air, water, and land, imposing instead 50 federal implementation plans on states. Pruitt reversed EPA’s course, embracing cooperation with the states. Since March 1, 2017, EPA acted on 322 SIPs and substituted one SIP each month for a federal implementation plan.

In a sign of improving efficiency, Pruitt’s EPA has cut the number of days needed to review state water quality standards in half, from 120 days to 60 days, and cleared a backlog of more than 600 chemicals under review by the agency, ensuring all new chemicals proposed for public or commercial have received a safety analysis and determination within approximately 90 days.

If the stock market, job growth, decline in unemployment, enhanced business investment, and consumer confidence increases are any indication, Trump is well on his way to making America great again, and the changes made at EPA under Scott Pruitt’s direction have played no small part in that.

Tim HuelskampTimothy (Tim) Alan HuelskampEmails show climate change skeptics tout ‘winning’ under Trump Trump administration's reforms could make welfare work again Bipartisan 'No Labels' group aims to protect moderates in primary fights MORE, Ph.D., is president of The Heartland Institute, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research center headquartered in Arlington Heights, Illinois. He served as a U.S. representative from Kansas from 2011-17. H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D., is a senior fellow on energy and the environment at The Heartland Institute.