News Feature | December 13, 2016

What Does Trump's EPA Pick Mean For Water Regulations?

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

President-elect Donald Trump has selected Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to lead the U.S. EPA, the federal agency with jurisdiction over water and wastewater regulations.

Environmental experts see Pruitt as a likely opponent of forceful water regulations. Ken Cook, head of the Environmental Working Group, a Washington research and advocacy organization, put it like this, per The New York Times: “It’s a safe assumption that Pruitt could be the most hostile E.P.A. administrator toward clean air and safe drinking water in history.”

Pruitt has been vocal about his opposition to the Waters of the U.S. (“WOTUS”) regulation, the EPA’s chief environmental waters achievement under the Obama administration. In an opinion piece published by The Hill last year, Pruitt called the rule “the greatest blow to private property rights the modern era has seen.”

“Simply put, the proposed rule is breathtaking in its overreach, and flatly contrary to the will of Congress, which, with the passing of the Clean Water Act, decided that the states should plan the development and use of local land and water resources,” he argued. Trump also opposes the rule.

Pruitt has a long history of going up against the EPA in court. Slate described his resume from this angle:

In suits attempting to block the EPA from limiting mercury pollution, decreasing ozone pollution, and reducing smog, Pruitt insisted that the federal government had no business regulating such pollutants. The power to keep America’s air clean, he declared in court, rested with the states. He used the same argument against the Clean Power Plan, which would cut back on carbon dioxide emissions from coal plants. The 10th Amendment, Pruitt asserted, gave states, not the EPA, the authority to reduce emissions — or not reduce them.

Pruitt has been upfront about his views on climate change. Climate change is a top issue for the water industry, according to a survey by Black & Veatch. “Mr. Pruitt, a Republican, has been a key architect of the legal battle against Mr. Obama’s climate change policies, actions that fit with the president-elect’s comments during the campaign,” the Times reported.

Pruitt wrote in The National Review: “Healthy debate is the lifeblood of American democracy, and global warming has inspired one of the major policy debates of our time. That debate is far from settled. Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind.”

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Image credit: "EPA," © 2011, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: