At a conference hosted by the North Dakota Petroleum Council this past May, then-candidate Donald Trump unveiled an ambitious “America First Energy Plan,” a slate of reforms designed to ease many of the regulatory burdens imposed on the energy industry during the Obama years. In his introductory remarks, President-elect Donald Trump identified the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a principal offender, warning the “totalitarian” agency sought to “control every aspect of our lives.”
Despite his trademark rhetorical flourish, Trump is certainly on to something. Over the past eight years, the Obama-led EPA has unleashed an onslaught of harmful, job-killing regulations all while chipping away at the cooperative federalism model that has long undergirded the agency’s relationship with the states.
In selecting Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to serve as Administrator of EPA, President-elect Trump has found just the right person to bring fresh leadership and much-needed reform to an agency currently out of control. Anyone who values striking a balance between sensible environmental regulations and the rule of law should delight in Pruitt’s appointment.
Coming from a position in state government (and especially from an energy-producing state), few have a better understanding of the impacts of EPA’s regulatory overreach than Pruitt. As the chief legal and law enforcement office of the State of Oklahoma, he has led coalitions of state attorneys general in challenging the legality of a litany of EPA regulations including the Regional Haze rule, the Waters of the United States rule, and the Clean Power Plan. As Pruitt explained during the 2014 ALEC Annual Meeting, these regulations collectively do little in the way of protecting public health but plenty in the way of needlessly driving up energy costs and usurping regulatory authority from the states.
Pruitt has also sounded the alarm on so-called “sue and settle” litigation where environmental activist groups collude with EPA and other agencies to render official policy at the expense of the states. In 2013, he joined attorneys general from 11 other states in suing EPA over the proliferation of these sweetheart settlements. As administrator, he will be in a position to significantly curtail the abuse of such citizen lawsuits.
President-elect Trump has vowed to bring “honesty, accountability and change to Washington.” General Pruitt’s record of accomplishment suggests that he will bring those very same qualities to EPA. For the first time in a long time, we will have an EPA administrator who will work constructively with industry and the states to spur economic growth while protecting our precious environment. It’s been long overdue.
John Eick is Director of Energy, Environment and Agriculture policy at the American Legislative Exchange Council.