Opinion—Scott Pruitt Advocates a Much Needed Reset for the EPA

Feb 22, 2017

Mr. Pruitt believes the EPA should follow the mandates of Congress.

The Senate, after contentious partisan hearings, confirmed Scott Pruitt, the former attorney general of Oklahoma, as the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

This could lead to a fundamental change in the approach the EPA takes to protecting the environment.

Kimberley A. Strassel, in an article in THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, outlines Mr. Pruitt’s plans for the agency based upon a recent interview with the new EPA chief.

Mr. Pruitt believes the EPA should enforce statutes passed by Congress. “Agencies exist to administer the law. Congress passes statutes, and those statutes are very clear on the job EPA has to do. We’re going to do that job.”

This is a welcome perspective. For years the construction industry has argued that the EPA has enacted increasingly invasive statutes with little regard for the economic impact they have on the construction industry.

The EPA’s appeal process is a farce; too expensive and time consuming to be of any practical use for individual businesses.

The old adage—power abhors a vacuum—is true and the EPA has gathered legislative authority that Congress has forfeited by its perpetual refusal to pass meaningful legislation.

The EPA’s actions have been well-intended. Its mandate is to protect the environment. But it has over-reached. For instance, as Ms. Strassel notes, the 2015 Waters of the United States rule that “asserts EPA power over every creek, pond or prairie pothole with a ‘significant nexus’ to a ‘navigable waterway.’”

This was almost certainly not the original intention of Congress when it established the EPA.

“Mr. Pruitt has read [the] laws his agency is charged with enforcing, and they guide another major change: a rebalancing of power between Washington and the states.”

This is a classic Republican position.

Democrats fear that the under Mr. Pruitt’s leadership the EPA will become anti-environment. He disputes that criticism. “’I reject this paradigm that says we can’t be both pro-environment and pro-energy.”

Mr. Pruitt contends that “’the greatest threat we’ve had to economic growth has been that those in industry don’t know what is expected of them. Rules that come from outside the statutes. Rules get changed mid-way. It creates vast uncertainty and paralysis, and re-establishing a vigorous commitment to rule of law is going to help a lot.’”

This perspective has the potential to greatly benefit the construction industry.

Don Wallis has more than 40 years experience in residential and commercial construction, and land development. He also has a law degree and currently teaches Environmental Law at Santa Fe Community College.


A Back-to Basics Agenda for the EPA, Kimberley A. Strassel, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, Feb. 18-19, 2017.