The head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) visited a coal mine Thursday, where he declared that the Trump administration is ending the “regulatory assault” against fossil fuels.
Pruitt spoke briefly at a portal building for the Harvey Mine in southwestern Pennsylvania, owned by Consol Energy Inc., before touring a piece of North America’s largest underground coal-mining complex in operation.
He slammed the Obama administration’s environmental policies, calling them a “war on coal,” and accused President Trump’s predecessor of falsely forcing Americans to choose between environmental protection and economic growth, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
“It's sad that a regulatory body, the federal government of the United States, would declare a war on our energy industry,” Pruitt told a few dozen miners.
“The regulatory assault is over,” he continued, eliciting applause according to the Associated Press. “We’re going to partner together with you.”
Pruitt’s speech is part of a new public relations campaign the EPA is launching, gathering together the Trump administration’s EPA priorities into an effort called “Back 2 Basics.”
It is meant to bring the EPA more in line with what the administration says is the agency’s original purpose: returning authority to states and focusing on regulating air and water pollutants that are not greenhouse gases, as well as repealing major Obama-era regulations.
Pruitt's appearance comes two weeks after Trump signed a wide-ranging executive order directing the EPA to start the process of rolling back President Obama’s climate regulations including the Clean Power Plan, a rule limiting greenhouse gas emissions from power plants that would likely have significantly reduced the use of coal.
The order also directed the EPA to start rolling back its climate rule for newly built power plants and asked the Interior Department to start leasing federal land for coal mining.
Trump previously signed legislation to repeal Interior’s stream protection rule, meant to stop mining pollution from being dumped into streams.
At the coal mine event Thursday, Pruitt promised to push ahead nonetheless with what he framed as more worthwhile environmental protections.
“We’re going to do it the American way, grow jobs and show the rest of the world how it’s done,” he said.