New EPA head: 'We don’t have to choose between' jobs and the environment

New EPA head: 'We don’t have to choose between' jobs and the environment
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The Trump administration’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief outlined a vision for the agency that places an added focus on economic and job growth.

Scott Pruitt used his first speech to the EPA’s 15,000 employees to speak mostly in general terms about his plans for an agency that had been a central target of Republican ire during former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaThe Memo: Bernie Sanders’s WH launch sharpens ‘socialist’ question Obama spends Presidents Day at Ayesha Curry's San Francisco restaurant Government's misguided holiday to celebrate itself MORE’s time in office.

“I believe that we as an agency and we as a nation can be both pro-energy and jobs, and pro-environment, that we don’t have to choose between the two,” Pruitt said in the 11-minute speech from EPA’s headquarters.


“I think our nation has been better than any nation in the world at making sure that 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,” he said.

Pruitt comes into office with an uneasy relationship to the EPA’s workforce, most of whom work outside of Washington, D.C.

Employees have publicly protested against Pruitt in places like Chicago and undertook an unprecedented effort to lobby the Senate to reject his nomination.

Pruitt, who was Oklahoma’s attorney general until the Senate confirmed him Friday by a vote of 52-46, is a staunch opponent of Obama EPA regulations like the Clean Power Plan and the Clean Water Rule, which were among the targets of the 14 lawsuits he filed against the agency.

The Trump administration is reportedly preparing as soon as this week to sign executive orders to begin undoing both of those regulations.

But instead of laying out specific plans for those rules and others, Pruitt outlined the principles he wants to guide his time at the EPA, like changing the regulatory process, sticking more closely to mandates from Congress and better respecting states, all of which he implied were not done to a high enough degree under Obama.

Among his goals, he said, is to prioritize "certainty" in regulations.

“Regulations ought to make things regular. Regulators exist to give certainty to those that they regulate. Those that we regulate ought to know what’s expected of them, so they can plan, and allocate resources to comply,” Pruitt said. “That’s really the job of a regulator.”

He said the regulatory process “needs to be tethered to the statute” and the EPA should “ensure that we engender the trust of those at the state level” to be seen as partners with the states, not adversaries.

While Pruitt did not directly confront the opposition to him among the EPA workforce, he called for the agency’s employees to be civil and listen to one another.

“Civility is something that I believe in very much. We ought to be able to get together and wrestle through some very difficult issues, and do so in a very civil manner,” he said.