EPA head Scott Pruitt will likely go down as one of the most controversial agency chiefs in that agency’s history of almost 50 years.
The former Oklahoma attorney general, who sued the EPA 14 times on behalf of fossil-fuel interests during the Obama administration, has a radically different view of how the agency should operate compared to most of his predecessors.
In fact, he recently sat down for a lengthy interview and gave a very different definition of “environmentalism” than the one many Americans would likely choose.
“Stewardship” rather than “prohibition” is what the EPA chief said real environmentalism should entail.
Pruitt spoke at length in an interview with The Washington Post published last Friday about his goals at the agency, and why using the country’s natural resources is more important than preserving them.
He said the Obama administration worked hard to place barriers and restrictions on natural resources, but Pruitt is already charting a much different course.
“I think that’s wrong,” he said. “I think our focus should be on using our natural resources—with environmental stewardship in mind. We can be about jobs and growth and be good stewards of our environment.”
Pruitt has been a staunch ally of President Trump in efforts to slash regulations on industries and businesses, which has included the dismantling of Obama’s Clean Power Act to let states chart individual courses to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions by power plants.
On Pruitt’s watch, the EPA has also reopened the 2022-2025 auto emission rule, which could relax regulations for automakers at a time when other countries are moving to even more stringent emission limits.
In the interview, Pruitt defended his meetings with industries and big businesses.
An earlier report by The New York Times showed the EPA head’s meetings were almost exclusively with industries, and he had spent little to no time with environmental groups.
Many of those meetings involved executives from gasoline, coal, and other fossil-fuel companies, and he suggested their input was important regarding regulations that hampered their ability to do business.
“The best interaction we have is spending time with individuals and companies that live under the regulations that we adopt,” he said.
“They breathe the air. They drink the water in these areas,” Pruitt continued. “They want, in my view, largely a commitment to better environmental outcomes.”
However, Pruitt said he welcomes environmentalists to make their voices heard.
He also said he plans to tackle a pair of issues he feels haven’t been addressed with sufficient rigor: the cleanup of abandoned mines, and lead in public water supplies.