Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Scott Pruitt gave his first remarks to agency staff on Tuesday, promising a return to normalcy from the Obama administration’s climate change agenda.
Pruitt was confirmed by the Senate and sworn in on Friday. He delivered his remarks at the EPA to outline his vision for new environmental policy.
The EPA administrator recounted the story the of founding generation’s battle over federalism. He argued that if Alexander Hamilton, a Federalist, and Thomas Jefferson, a states’ rights champion, could work together, then environmentalists and business leaders could find common ground, too.
Pruitt said, “We live in a toxic environment that makes it difficult to get together and find a solution.” The new EPA administrator hopes to engage EPA staffers, lawmakers, and environmental activists with civility and thoughtful debate. He remarked, “You can’t lead if you can’t learn to listen.”
Despite Pruitt’s charge for cooperation, he did issue a dictum for change at the EPA. He said, “Regulations ought to make things regular.” He added that, “Staff should avoid abuses, avoid using guidance instead of regulation, and stop regulating through litigation. Moreover, make sure the EPA follows the letter of the law.”
Pruitt says that the EPA can only regulate to the extent Congress stipulates by law. He argued that the EPA should work with state-level offices as partners, not adversaries.
Administrator Pruitt summed up his vision for the EPA, saying, “I believe that we as a nation can protect the environment and unleash the economic growth that our country seeks to have. We can have places to pray, places to pray, and places to do our work as well.”