The November 4th cover of Time magazine was “The Wrecking Crew,” a series of articles on how the Trump administration was rolling back regulations. After the obligatory opening about how Steve Bannon was the second coming of Rasputin, the first article concerned the EPA and was titled “Company Man in Washington-” a reference to EPA Director Scott Pruitt and his close ties to industry. Put another way, it was an article on Scott Pruitt’s distancing the EPA from the environmental Left.
The article started off in typical liberal scare tactic fashion chronicling how a single off-target crop dusting had caused a host of health problems in the child of a neighboring farm. In 2015, that same child had been diagnosed with a developmental disorder which, the article explains, may be linked to the very chemical accidentally dumped on the farm. In fact, Obama’s EPA banned the use of the chemical- chlorpyrifos. The chemical in question is used worldwide to combat a host of plant diseases and pests.
In reality, the article much later notes that the chemical was banned for residential use in 2000, not agricultural use. Secondly, the Obama EPA did not ban the chemical in 2015, but made such a proposal. It is a far cry between a ban and a proposal when we are talking about any bureaucracy, especially one as large as the EPA.
Since becoming head of the EPA, Pruitt has killed or rolled back a dozen regulations or proposals. They run the gamut of the EPA area of expertise from water rules, to clean air regulations and fuel efficiency standards. These regulatory roll-backs have worked to the advantage of the coal industry (not a bad thing) and reducing compliance costs for farmers (not a bad thing). Of course, this has upset some long-term EPA bureaucrats, many of them Obama holdovers, who now assert that Pruitt’s EPA, in typical liberal fashion, are putting American lives and health in danger.
In February, in what probably most struck fear in the hearts and minds of the environmentalists who occupied the EPA, Pruitt gave a speech portraying the EPA as an agency that has run amok (true). In that speech, he said:
Our job is to enforce the law. What has happened the last several years is that this agency- among others, but this agency particularly- has taken those statutes and stretched them so far.
This is a statement of truth! For example, under Obama, the EPA has stretched the definition of “waters of America” to the tiniest creeks and, in some cases, runoff from parking lots. They have mandated that by 2025, all car-maker fleets average 55 m.p.g., an almost impossible feat without sacrificing driver safety. The waters of America rule makes many development projects of a local nature a national one.
What makes Pruitt different from his predecessors is that he views the job as twofold: protector of the environment AND promoter of the economy. While environmentalists lament the fact they have a lessened voice in the agency, they criticize Pruitt given his open door policy towards businesses. According to the article:
Pruitt’s approach to dismantling environmental regulations often follows a pattern. First, the administration meets with an industry group. Then the group petitions for a regulatory change. Soon after, Pruitt announces a review along the lines the group requested.
How radical- allowing those who create jobs a seat at the environmental table. The article asserts that Pruitt justifies his actions as being consistent with the law and, by insinuation, previous regulations as inconsistent with the law. To show the accuracy of Pruitt’s philosophy, take Obama’s Clean Power Plan. This was a regulatory scheme devised to combat climate change which is at the end of the day a dubious assertion to begin with. Pruitt correctly argues that it intervenes in state energy policy. The environmentalists counter that 3,600 lives would have been saved by 2030 and it would have generated $34 billion annually in health and climate benefits. Hopefully, they did not reach these conclusions from watching an Al Gore film since predictions by the doomsday climate change crowd have been woefully off the mark.
Regarding the Clean Power Plan, Pruitt has rescinded a rule that would have adversely affected the coal industry. We can debate whether the coal industry is going through a natural death spiral. But the bigger question is why should the government enact regulations that actually murders the coal industry? It should be further noted that Pruitt was on the correct side of the legal arguments as the rule was stayed by the Supreme Court as an example of federal overreach.
Even regarding the use of that chemical mentioned earlier, Pruitt did not enact the Obama-era proposal citing the fact that it is used worldwide, in many instances without incidence, and that the science is spotty regarding its danger. Again, in July a federal court agreed and upheld Pruitt’s decision.
Some moderate Republicans and industry officials fear that Pruitt is now overreaching. The fear is that if he goes too far, a later administration will come in with both environmental barrels blazing. This underscores another misconception of Pruitt. It isn’t that Pruitt is going too far; it is that the Obama administration went too far.
Trump himself has sung the praises of Pruitt and his efforts at the EPA. The difference between Trump and Pruitt is that Trump speaks in generalities while Pruitt knows the policy details and conforms to them with an over-arcing philosophy of the EPA’s role and its legal mandates. Hence, it is likely that Pruitt was influential in convincing Trump to withdraw from the “feel good about ourselves because we’re saving the planet” Paris Climate Accords which would have transferred wealth from the rich countries to the poor in a massive case of environmental socialism.
Pruitt will have his enemies. The two obvious ones are the scare-mongering environmental groups who will push their agenda through negative Time magazine articles. The other is blue-state attorney generals who are combining forces to fight regulatory rollbacks. Of course, both will inevitably use the sometimes lonely example of a wayward crop duster in 2012.