Thought Piece

[The thought of the EPA becoming a more humble agency is very appealing:  More a practical environmentalist with a more balanced agenda rather than a crusader who had become highly politicized, ideological and self-righteous, with a flare for creating rules and laws on their own.

I expect that Scott Pruitt is a promoter of some financial and business certainty in a world being transformed by the higher powers of the Internet of Things into a vastly more energy efficient global grid.

This latent energy efficiency dwarfs all other sources of new energy in being the cleanest, cleanest and quickest way to achieve economic development for poorer nations who still don’t have reliable electricity or clean water.  Steve]

Scott Pruitt Signals Dramatic Shift in EPA Priorities

In speech before employees, the new chief emphasized giving business certainty about rules


Amy Harder, Wall Street Journal, Feb. 21, 2017 3:13 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON—In his first speech as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt stressed a dramatic change of priorities at the agency, stating the importance of the agency’s communication and relationship with businesses but giving few details about policy changes.

Mr. Pruitt didn’t touch on the hard-fought issues that arose during his confirmation process, including his work as Oklahoma attorney general suing the EPA and comments President Donald Trump has made about nearly eliminating the agency.

The new administrator focused instead on his general aspirations for the agency, such as giving businesses certainty regarding environmental rules and striking an appropriate balance with states when it comes to regulations. “Regulations ought to make things regular,” said Mr. Pruitt, repeating a line he used at his confirmation hearing in January. “Those that we regulate ought to know what they can expect from us.”

That is a clear difference in message and focus from the EPA under President Barack Obama, which emphasized first what the agency was trying to protect with its regulations on clean air and water.

Mr. Pruitt’s speech at agency headquarters, which went a little over 10 minutes, was aimed at striking a balance between the administrator’s mandate from Mr. Trump to roll back Mr. Obama’s environmental regulations and persistent concerns from inside and outside the agency about that very mandate. It didn’t include questions from either media or the assembled EPA staffers in Washington. EPA employs about 15,000 people across the U.S.; thousands were able to watch the speech online.

“You can’t lead unless you listen. I seek to listen and learn and lead with you to address these issues we face as a nation,” Mr. Pruitt said.

Mr. Trump’s plans for EPA have attracted particular attention, given his stated goal of making wholesale changes at the agency. Current and former officials of the agency had publicly urged the defeat of Mr. Pruitt, saying they were concerned about his close relations with the oil and gas industry in Oklahoma. The Senate narrowly confirmed him on Friday mostly along party lines.

Mr. Pruitt’s comments Tuesday didn’t ease some critics’ concerns.

“Pruitt told EPA staff they may not know him except for what they have read, but perception is reality,” said Liz Purchia, a former EPA communications director under Mr. Obama. “Trump’s team spent the entire campaign and the last few months railing against EPA’s existence, its staff and its purpose.”

Mr. Pruitt didn’t mention the Trump administration’s imminent plans to start undoing two of the biggest rules the agency has issued over the past eight years: one cutting carbon emissions from power plants and another bringing more waters under federal jurisdiction.

Mr. Trump is expected to soon sign at least two executive orders to begin the process of scrapping both of those regulations, along with other Obama-era climate regulations, according to several people familiar with the plans. Both efforts would take months and are likely to face legal challenges.

The executive order focusing on power-plant emissions is expected to be framed as an attempt to reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign sources of energy while promoting domestic energy production, two of Mr. Trump’s campaign promises. Supporters of the regulation say it is important for fighting climate change.

Other policies likely to be targeted in the executive orders is an Interior Department temporary ban on coal leasing and a measure cutting emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas, from oil and natural gas wells on federal lands. Congress is already in the process of repealing that regulation.