Pruitt to tout ‘Back to Basics’

Source: Kevin Bogardus, E&E News reporter • Posted: Thursday, December 7, 2017

U.S. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt will highlight his plans for the agency on Capitol Hill today.

In his written testimony for the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment hearing this morning, Pruitt will echo the three themes of his approach to the agency that have been prevalent since his confirmation hearing this past January: “core mission,” “cooperative federalism” and “rule of law.”

The three concepts make up Pruitt’s “Back to Basics” agenda for EPA, which Democrats are itching to pick over, along with the administrator’s other actions at today’s hearing.

It will be Pruitt’s first time back before Congress since he testified before House and Senate appropriations subcommittees in June.

The EPA chief has often disparaged the agency’s work under the Obama administration as he has sought to roll back several of its significant regulations, including the Clean Power Plan and the Waters of the U.S. rule.

He has run into opposition from environmental groups and Democrats on the Hill who question his ties to industry as he seeks to reshape the agency.

In his statement for the subcommittee, Pruitt said EPA has set priorities in “its core mission areas” — land, air, water — as well as chemicals.

That will include speeding up the cleanup of toxic waste sites under the Superfund program and the review of states’ air quality attainment plans, as well as implementing the chemical safety reform law passed last year.

Pruitt also said EPA must create “a sense of shared accountability” and be “a better partner to the states.” He noted he has traveled to more than 27 states as part of redoing the Obama-era water rule.

“During this process, I am thankful to have had the blessing of learning about the unique challenges faced by each region, and the one-size-fits-all mentality of the previous administration. This type of top-down regulation does not foster a cooperative relationship with the states that Congress intended in the Clean Water Act,” Pruitt said.

The EPA chief also touted his memo to curb agency settlements with environmental groups, including blocking any attorneys’ fees from being included in any deals, that are called “sue and settle” agreements by their critics.

“Over the years, outside the regulatory process, well-funded special interest groups have attempted to use lawsuits to force federal agencies — especially EPA — to issue regulations that advance their priorities,” Pruitt said. “This will not continue at EPA, which is why on October 16th of this year, I signed a memorandum ending the practice.”

In addition, Pruitt said EPA is now ending “an attitude and approach” under the Obama team “that one can simply reimagine authority under statutes.”

“As an Agency, we must ensure that we are acting within parameters which Congress has laid out for us. For too long, EPA has failed to provide the regulatory consistency and certainty the regulated community needs,” said the administrator’s remarks.

According to a background memo prepared by the committee’s Republican staff, lawmakers may ask Pruitt about realigning the agency with “Back to Basics.”

In addition, Pruitt could be asked about metrics he uses to measure progress for EPA programs, as well as what “statutory changes” are needed for EPA to fulfill its mission.