He didn’t delve into policy specifics nor did he mention his predecessors by name, but new Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt on Tuesday told federal employees that under his leadership the agency once again will adhere to the rule of law and will respect states’ rights.
In a speech to EPA workers in Washington, Mr. Pruitt — the former attorney general of Oklahoma who often clashed with the agency in court as he challenged former President Obama’s climate-change agenda — said federal environmental; regulations often have been unnecessarily cumbersome and expensive, and have created confusion rather than clarity.
“Regulations ought to make things regular. Regulators exist to give certainty to those they regulate,” he said. “I seek to ensure that we engender the trust of those at the state level, that those at the state level see us as partners … and not as adversaries.”
Mr. Pruitt was confirmed last week by a Senate vote of 52 to 46, drawing the support of two Democrats — Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota. Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine voted against him, saying she believes he’s unfit to lead the agency.
His address comes the same day the Oklahoma attorney general’s office is set to release nearly 3,000 emails containing communications between Mr. Pruitt and oil-and-gas companies. Democrats believe those documents will show clear collusion between the new EPA chief and the fossil fuels sector, though their concerns were not enough to delay last Friday’s vote.
Mr. Pruitt has defended his close relationship with oil-and-gas firms while Oklahoma attorney general, saying it was his duty to defend his state’s industries against unfair or unlawful regulations.
Moving forward, Mr. Pruitt is expected to begin dismantling Obama-era EPA regulations such as the Clean Power Plan, which set limits on carbon emissions from power plants, and the Waters of the U.S. rule, which gave the EPA broad authority over most bodies of water across the country.
He bemoaned his predecessor’s use of rules and regulations to set such far-reaching and consequential policies, suggesting the agency often has gone far beyond the authority given to it by Congress.
“Congress has been very prescriptive in providing, in many instances, a very robust role, an important role, for the states,” he said.
Mr. Pruitt also rejected the notion that fossil-fuel development and environmental protection are incompatible ideas.
“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,” he said.
Mr. Pruitt’s emails are scheduled to be released by the end of the day Tuesday.
• Ben Wolfgang can be reached at email@example.com.
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