Energy & Environment

EPA chief recuses himself from climate, water rule cases

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The head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is recusing himself from matters involving numerous major lawsuits he filed against his own agency.

Scott Pruitt filed a recusal statement Thursday, saying that he will stay away from cases challenging the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, the Clean Water Rule, the 2015 ozone pollution rule, the methane emissions limits for oil and natural gas, the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal and more.

The EPA under President Trump opposes and is working to repeal the Clean Power Plan, the water rule and the methane rule, and is reviewing the ozone rule for potential repeal.

{mosads}“I understand that this commitment is longer than is required by the federal impartiality standards, but I am taking this action to avoid even the appearance of any impropriety under federal ethics or professional responsibility obligations,” Pruitt wrote in a letter first reported by E&E News.

Pruitt had filed all of those lawsuits as Oklahoma’s attorney general, as part of a coalition with other conservative states.

He also won’t be involved in any matters involving Oklahoma until February 2018, a year after he took over the EPA job, he wrote.

Pruitt’s recusal doesn’t cover other matters concerning the regulations, and he can still participate in the ongoing work to repeal and potentially rewrite many of them.

“I am committed to enacting the president’s regulatory agenda by reviewing, revising or rescinding rules and regulations created by the previous administration that cause undue or unnecessary stress on American jobs or the economy,” Pruitt said in a statement. 

“I am profoundly committed to carrying out my ethical responsibilities. While I have recused myself from making decisions on specific cases, it is my duty and privilege as the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency to actively engage in rulemaking,” he added.

Ever since Trump nominated Pruitt in December, Democrats and environmentalists have hounded the EPA chief with conflict of interest allegations.

During his Senate confirmation process, Senate Democrats said his lawsuits against the EPA disqualify him from the job, in part because he would not be able to sufficiently defend the agency against his own cases.

Since then, the Democrats have kept up the conflict-of-interest claims, saying that he should recuse himself from a wide range of matters.

Just this week, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and four colleagues pushed Pruitt to remove himself from the federal lawsuit over the EPA’s ozone rule.

“We all continue to believe that you should have committed to recuse yourself extensively from a number of matters during your confirmation process. Nevertheless, your anticipation of, and preparation for, both the filing of the motion in the D.C. Circuit and the intended review of the 2015 ozone [rule] should have triggered the more limited recusal policy to which you have already and repeatedly agreed,” they wrote.

Updated May 6, 5:01 p.m.

Tags Environmental Protection Agency Tom Carper

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