Energy & Environment

EPA head denies meeting with 'polluters'

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) pushed back on accusations that he frequently meets with "polluters," despite repeated sit-downs with fossil fuel companies and others regulated by the EPA.

Scott Pruitt argued in an interview with Time published Friday that those groups are important "stakeholders" in the regulatory and other environmental decisions he makes.

"I don't spend any time with polluters. I prosecute polluters," Pruitt said. "What I'm spending time with are stakeholders who care about outcomes."

"I think it's a wrong premise," he continued. "It's Washington, D.C.-think to look at folks across the country - from states to citizens to farmers and ranchers, industry in general - and say they are evil or wrong and we're not going to partner with them."

It's not the first time Pruitt has defended his frequent meetings with companies or groups that the agency regulates.

Last week, speaking to an agriculture group in Kentucky, Pruitt said he meets often with farmers and ranchers in agriculture-heavy states.

"Do they not count?" he asked. "And the answer is, you count more. Because every single day, what we do impacts you, and we have to work together to achieve better outcomes for water and air quality in this country."

Separately, Pruitt, in the Time interview, questioned whether the Obama administration's 2009 endangerment finding for greenhouse gases was developed properly.

That finding underpins all of the EPA's climate change regulations, because it establishes that greenhouse gases are harmful to the public.

Pruitt has not committed to reconsidering the finding itself, and he said he wouldn't seek to do so as part of the process of repealing the Clean Power Plan and potentially replacing it with another regulation.

"This agency took work product of the U.N. International [sic] Panel on Climate Change and adopted it, and transferred it to this agency, and used it as the basis, underpinnings, of the endangerment finding. That had never happened," Pruitt said of the development of the finding.

"It happened in months, by the way. This agency doesn't build a record in months with respect to these kinds of issues," he continued.

"So it really draws into question: Did this agency engage in a robust, meaningful discussion, with respect to the endangerment that CO2 poses to this country? And I think by any definition about process, they didn't," he said.