Pruitt outlines changes at EPA

Therese Dunphy

November 7, 2017

Scott Pruitt at NSSGA MeetingDuring the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association’s 2017 Legislative & Policy Forum, held Sept. 24-28 in Washington, D.C., EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt discussed changes he’s making at the Environmental Protection Agency and what those changes may mean to the aggregates industry. “Our agency has been seen as the poster child for federal overreach,” he told attendees. “When you look at the past administration, truly there was an abuse of power.”

One of the first issues the EPA took on is one near and dear to many producers: Waters of the United States (WOTUS). Pruitt said he signed paperwork to withdraw the WOTUS rule within minutes of President Trump’s executive order directing the EPA to consider its withdrawal. The agency is working on a replacement definition that “stays within the intent of the statute and within the intent of Congress when the Clean Water Act was adopted,” Pruitt said. “That’s coming no later than the first quarter of 2018. You will know, with clarity, where federal jurisdiction begins and ends.”

Next, Pruitt said he would tackle former President Obama’s Clean Power Plan. On Oct. 10, he signed a proposed rule that would repeal that regulation, aimed at curbing carbon emissions to the detriment of the coal industry. “We’re committed to righting the wrongs of the Obama administration by cleaning the regulatory slate,” he said in a statement. “Any replacement rule will be done carefully, properly, and with humility, by listening to all those affected by the rule.”

A third initiative is to end the EPA’s track record on the practice of sue and settle. In the past, this has allowed the agency to regulate outside the rulemaking process by encouraging third parties, such as NGOs or environmental groups, to file a lawsuit in a friendly court. The EPA would then enter into a consent decree and change the substantive requirements of the statute, Pruitt said, adding that “it violates what’s important in rulemaking — public participation.”

Common sense rulemaking and regulatory oversight is not only important to achieving regulatory goals, but to economic growth as well. To that end, he said the EPA will undergo restructuring, focusing on a clear mission and getting back to the basics.

“Folks across this country need to know what’s expected of them so they can allocate resources and personnel to achieve the ends regulations are intended to achieve. Regulatory pancaking — when an agency introduces a rule then changes it or the rules of engagement over and over again — creates uncertainty in the marketplace and affects the economy in negative ways,” Pruitt said. “Fiscal policy affects our GDP. Tax policy does as well, but I will tell you: Over the last several years, the greatest impediment to economic growth has been regulatory uncertainty.”

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