EPA chief back­tracks on de­lay­ing rules re­duc­ing emis­sions.

Set­back for Pruitt’s rev­ers­ing Obama rules

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY MICHAEL BIESECKER

One day af­ter get­ting sued by 15 states, En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency chief Scott Pruitt re­versed his ear­lier de­ci­sion to de­lay im­ple­men­ta­tion of Obama-era rules re­duc­ing emis­sions of smog­caus­ing air pol­lu­tants.

Mr. Pruitt pre­sented the change as his agency be­ing more re­spon­sive than past ad­min­is­tra­tions to the needs of state en­vi­ron­men­tal reg­u­la­tors. He made no men­tion of the le­gal chal­lenge filed against his prior po­si­tion in a fed­eral ap­peals court.

At is­sue is an Oct. 1 dead­line for states to be­gin meet­ing 2015 stan­dards for ground-level ozone. Mr. Pruitt announced in June he would de­lay com­pli­ance by one year to give his agency more time to study the plan and avoid “in­ter­fer­ing with lo­cal de­ci­sions or im­ped­ing eco­nomic growth.”

Mr. Pruitt, who was Ok­la­homa’s state at­tor­ney gen­eral be­fore his ap­point­ment by Pres­i­dent Trump, has long served as a re­li­able op­po­nent of stricter en­vi­ron­men­tal reg­u­la­tions. Since ar­riv­ing in Wash­ing­ton, Mr. Pruitt re­peat­edly has moved to block or de­lay reg­u­la­tions op­posed by the chem­i­cal and fos­sil fuel in­dustries.

Wed­nes­day’s sud­den re­ver­sal is the lat­est le­gal set­back for Mr. Pruitt’s reg­u­la­tory roll­back agenda. Last month, a fed­eral ap­peals court in Wash­ing­ton ruled the EPA ad­min­is­tra­tor over­stepped his au­thor­ity in try­ing to de­lay im­ple­men­ta­tion of an Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion rule re­quir­ing oil and gas com­pa­nies to mon­i­tor and re­duce meth­ane leaks.

In a state­ment is­sued Wed­nes­day evening, Mr. Pruitt sug­gested his about-face on ozone stan­dards sim­ply re­in­forced the EPA’s com­mit­ment to work­ing with 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 Mr. Pruitt, who sued EPA more than a dozen times in his prior job. “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.”

Still, the EPA’s state­ment said Mr. Pruitt may at some point once again use his “de­lay au­thor­ity and all other au­thor­ity legally avail­able” to en­sure reg­u­la­tions “are founded on sound pol­icy and the best avail­able in­for­ma­tion.”

Repub­li­cans in Congress are push­ing for a broader re­write of the ozone rules. A House bill ap­proved last month seeks to de­lay im­ple­men­ta­tion of the 2015 rules by at least eight years. The mea­sure has not yet been brought to a vote in the Se­nate.

New York At­tor­ney Gen­eral Eric Sch­nei­der­man, who led the coali­tion of states that sued the EPA this week, said the group in­tends to keep up the le­gal pres­sure.

“The EPA’s re­ver­sal — fol­low­ing our law­suits — is an im­por­tant win for the health and safety of those 6.7 mil­lion New York­ers, and the over 115 mil­lion Amer­i­cans di­rectly im­pacted by smog pour­ing into their com­mu­ni­ties,” Mr. Sch­nei­der­man said.

New York was joined in the case by California, Con­necti­cut, Delaware, Illi­nois, Iowa, Maine, Mas­sachusetts, Minnesota, New Mex­ico, Ore­gon, Penn­syl­va­nia, Rhode Is­land, Ver­mont, Wash­ing­ton and the District of Columbia.

Ground-level ozone is cre­ated when com­mon pol­lu­tants emit­ted by cars, power plants, oil re­finer­ies, chem­i­cal plants and other sources re­act in the at­mos­phere to sun­light.

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