EPA chief Pruitt back­tracks on emis­sions rules

States sued af­ter agency tried to de­lay reg­u­la­tions.

Austin American-Statesman - - MORE OF TODAY’S TOP NEWS - By Michael Biesecker

One day af­ter 15 states sued him, En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency chief Scott Pruitt back­tracked on de­lay­ing Obama-era rules in­tended to re­duce emis­sions of smog-caus­ing air pol­lu­tants.

Pruitt con­tended his agency was be­ing more re­spon­sive than past ad­min­is­tra­tions to states’ needs. He made no men­tion Wed­nes­day of the le­gal chal­lenges to his ear­lier stand.

At is­sue is an Oct. 1 dead­line for states to be­gin meet­ing stan­dards for ground-level ozone. Pruitt announced in June that he would hold off com­pli­ance by one year so the EPA had more time to study the plan and avoid “in­ter­fer­ing with lo­cal de­ci­sions or im­ped­ing eco­nomic growth.”

In ad­di­tion to the suit by a group of states led by New York, Pruitt was sued last month by a dozen pub­lic health and en­vi­ron­men­tal groups, in­clud­ing the Amer­i­can Lung As­so­ci­a­tion, Physi­cians for So­cial Re­spon­si­bil­ity and the Sierra Club. The EPA was required to file a re­sponse in that case by Thurs­day.

Pruitt, who pre­vi­ously was Ok­la­homa’s at­tor­ney gen­eral, has long op­posed stricter en­vi­ron­men­tal rules. At the EPA, he re­peat­edly has acted to block or de­lay reg­u­la­tions op­posed by the chem­i­cal and fos­sil-fuel in­dustries.

Wed­nes­day’s re­ver­sal was the lat­est le­gal set­back for his agenda. Last month, a fed­eral ap­peals court in Wash­ing­ton ruled that Pruitt over­stepped his au­thor­ity in try­ing to stall an Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion rule that oil and gas com­pa­nies mon­i­tor and re­duce meth­ane leaks.

In a state­ment, Pruitt sug­gested his about-face on ozone stan­dards sim­ply re­in­forced the EPA’s com­mit­ment to help­ing states through the com­plex process of meet­ing the new stan­dards on time.

“Un­der pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tions, EPA would of­ten fail to meet des­ig­na­tion dead­lines, and then wait to be sued by ac­tivist groups and others, agree­ing in a set­tle­ment to set sched­ules for des­ig­na­tion,” said Pruitt, who sued EPA more than a dozen times as a state of­fi­cial. “We do not be­lieve in reg­u­la­tion through lit­i­ga­tion, and we take dead­lines se­ri­ously. We also take the statute and the au­thor­ity it gives us se­ri­ously.”

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