Pruitt to appear for long-awaited hearing

Source: Kevin Bogardus, E&E News reporter • Posted: Tuesday, December 5, 2017

U.S. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt will return to Capitol Hill on Thursday for an oversight hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment.

For Pruitt, it is a long-anticipated appearance before Congress. The last time the administrator testified was this past June, when he appeared separately before House and Senate appropriations subcommittees to discuss the president’s budget.

“We’re looking forward to receiving a much-needed update from Mr. Pruitt on his priorities for the agency, including his stated policy of getting EPA ‘back to the basics’ and its impact on the agency’s activity going forward,” Energy and Commerce Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and subcommittee Chairman John Shimkus (R-Ill.) said in a statement announcing the hearing last month (Greenwire, Nov. 16).

The GOP lawmakers added that given the agency’s “controversial and expansive interpretation” of its authority under the Obama administration, it was about time that EPA “refocus” on its public health and environmental mission as intended by Congress.

Democrats in both the House and Senate had been publicly pressing for Pruitt to testify. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee secured its own hearing date for next month (E&E News PM, Nov. 16).

“It is important that EPA Administrator Pruitt testifies before the committee,” EPW Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said when announcing the meeting.

Lawmakers will have plenty to discuss with Pruitt about his tenure so far at the agency. The EPA administrator has pushed to roll back several signature Obama-era regulations, including the Clean Power Plan and the Clean Water Rule.

In addition, Pruitt has begun to reshape the agency itself, launching a round of buyouts that saw hundreds of workers depart this year.

The administrator has also barred science advisers who have received EPA grants from sitting on the agency’s advisory boards.

Pruitt could face tough questions on his own use of agency resources. His focus on security, including building a secure phone booth in his office and having an around-the-clock protective detail, has come under scrutiny.