Do­ing the right thing at EPA

The boss-to-be says he’s against fed­eral over­reach, not for dirty air and wa­ter

The Washington Times Daily - - EDITORIAL -

Scott Pruitt, the at­tor­ney gen­eral of Ok­la­homa and Don­ald Trump’s nom­i­nee for di­rec­tor of the U.S. En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency, calls him­self “a na­tional leader in the cause to re­store the proper bal­ance of power be­tween the states and the fed­eral gov­ern­ment.” He es­tab­lished a first-ever Fed­er­al­ism Unit in the Of­fice of So­lic­i­tor Gen­eral in Ok­la­homa to com­bat “un­war­ranted reg­u­la­tion and over­reach” by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment. Fed­er­al­ism is the new short­hand for “states’ rights.”

That’s what com­mended him to the pres­i­dent-elect, be­cause nowhere else in the vast fed­eral bu­reau­cracy is over­reach so out of con­trol as in the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency. Nowhere else is the panic in the Wash­ing­ton swamp so per­va­sive. “At the risk of be­ing dra­matic,” says Dan Pfeif­fer, a one­time se­nior ad­viser to Pres­i­dent Obama and a man will­ing to take the risk, “Scott Pruitt at EPA is an ex­is­ten­tial threat to the planet.”

Mr. Pruitt and his fel­low state at­tor­neys gen­eral, who have gone to court to stall the EPA’s reg­u­la­tory ex­cesses, have re­jected the child­ish slan­der that be­cause they ques­tion the EPA’s ex­cesses they’re for “dirty air and dirty wa­ter.” This is odd, be­cause the at­tor­neys gen­eral drink the wa­ter and breathe the air every­body else does, and have never shown a taste for sui­cide.

But what they ac­tu­ally op­pose is the bu­reau­cracy at the EPA do­ing things they know they have no le­gal or statu­tory man­date from Congress to do. They think the ends, some­times good and some­times not so good, jus­tify the means. The left tried that ar­gu­ment, with all the ac­com­pa­ny­ing pres­sure they could muster, to ha­rass the Elec­toral Col­lege to aban­don its moral and le­gal obli­ga­tion to vote for the man who fairly car­ried their states.

Mr. Pruitt earned the en­mity of the rad­i­cals by or­ga­niz­ing the coali­tion of state at­tor­neys gen­eral to block the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s costly and cum­ber­some pol­icy to re­duce the green­house-gas emis­sions, so called, in the elec­tric­ity sec­tor, and to block the EPA’s scheme to cur­tail the emis­sions of meth­ane in oil and gas pro­duc­tion.

“What con­cerns the states is the process, the pro­ce­dures, the au­thor­ity that the EPA is ex­ert­ing, that we think is en­tirely in­con­sis­tent with its con­sti­tu­tional and statu­tory au­thor­ity,” he told The Wash­ing­ton Post. “The over­reach is that the statutes do not per­mit [EPA of­fi­cials] to act in the way they do.”

The 1970 Clean Air Act, un­der the aus­pices of which the EPA claims to be act­ing, is long over­due for an over­haul by Congress. If Congress wants the EPA to have the au­thor­ity it clearly cov­ets, it could ex­pressly and ex­plic­itly say so.

Con­trary to the hys­te­ria on the left, Mr. Pruitt, who is from a ma­jor oil- and nat­u­ral gas-pro­duc­ing state, is not pro-pol­lu­tion. “Some peo­ple be­lieve we don’t need an EPA, that they don’t have any role at all,” he told an in­ter­viewer for Na­tional Public Ra­dio three years ago. “I’m not one of those folks. I think the EPA can serve — and has served, his­tor­i­cally — a very valu­able pur­pose.” But he wants to hold the EPA to do the right thing in the right way.

That’s a big dif­fer­ence, one lost on Gina McCarthy, the cur­rent EPA ad­min­is­tra­tor whom Mr. Pruitt is poised to re­place. She promised after the elec­tion to make the tran­si­tion as dif­fi­cult for her suc­ces­sor as she could, re­mind­ing her agency: “We’re run­ning — not walk­ing — through the fin­ish line of Pres­i­dent Obama’s pres­i­dency.” But in less than a month there will be an­other fin­ish line.

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