Pruitt to conservatives in Denver: EPA is no longer a ‘bastion of liberalism’

Author: Marianne Goodland - June 8, 2018 - Updated: June 10, 2018

PruittEPA Administrator Scott Pruitt touts the Trump administration record on the environment during Friday evening’s session at the Western Conservative Summit. hoto courtesy of the Centennial Institute via YouTube.

Scott Pruitt, the embattled administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, spoke to a friendly crowd Friday night at the Western Conservative Summit in Denver, touting President Donald Trump’s accomplishments in reversing environmental regulations imposed by the previous Obama administration.

We are living in transformational times, Pruitt told the audience: “God places responsibility on us to advance liberty and freedom” just as it was at the founding of the country, he said.

The EPA is doing business differently, Pruitt said. That means undoing the Waters of the USA rules set up by the Obama administration, which he said was an effort to centralize power, not to protect water quality.

“We’re going to create a new definition” of waters, Pruitt said, one based on private ownership.

Pruitt also promoted the Trump administration’s views on Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which he said declared war on fossil fuels.

No agency of the federal government should ever declare war on a sector of the nation’s economy, or should declare winners and losers and favor one energy source over another, he said. “We can be about regulatory reform and growing jobs and the economy” at the same time.

Changes under Trump have helped save business $1 billion and produced a better outcome for the environment, Pruitt claimed. He insisted  that air quality is 10 percent better under this administration, and the EPA is making great progress in cleaning up the environment, such as at Superfund sites.

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Pruitt also pointed to Trump’s decision to take the United States out of the Paris climate accords, which he said took tremendous courage.

“We won’t agree to an agreement that puts us at a disadvantage to the rest of the world,” with other countries such as China and India allowed to wait until 2030 to reduce their (carbon dioxide) emissions, he said. “We are leading the world in that regard and have nothing to be apologetic about.”

Trump is about putting power back in the hands of people in the states, Pruitt concluded, saying: “I am so thankful we have a president who is a man of courage and results.”

Pruitt — a former Oklahoma attorney general who repeatedly did legal battle with the agency he now leads — admitted he knew that taking on the role at EPA would be “noisy and competitive,” especially in an agency that he called “a bastion of liberalism. … My greatest response is to keep going,” he said, and let people know that transformational change is happening.

Pruitt took the helm of the EPA after the Senate confirmed his nomination on Feb. 17, 2017.

As state attorney general in Oklahoma, sued the EPA more than a dozen times, according to The Washington Post. The lawsuits included challenges to the agency’s authority to “regulate toxic mercury pollution, smog, carbon emissions from power plants and the quality of wetlands and other waters,” The Post said.

Since becoming EPA administrator, Pruitt has called climate change into question. In an interview with CNBC shortly after he was confirmed, he said he would not agree that carbon dioxide “is a primary contributor to the global warming that we see,” adding that “there’s a tremendous disagreement about of [sic] the impact of human activity on the climate.”

(Most mainstream scientists not affiliated with political advocacy groups agree that human activity is causing measurable changes to the earth’s climate and that carbon dioxide is a significant contributing factor. Pruitt’s agency as well backed that conclusion until the Trump administration took over.)

Pruitt’s stance led to a lawsuit from an environmental group, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. Last week, Chief Judge Beryl Howell of the U.S. District Court for Washington, D.C., ordered the EPA to release any agency documents it has that backs up Pruitt’s claims about climate change.

Pruitt has been controversial for other reasons, most notably his use of his office and of taxpayer dollars for alleged personal benefit.

In the past week, news reports revealed he asked an aide to look for a used mattress from a Trump hotel. Aides also have done apartment shopping for him and arranged personal travel, all of which could violate a federal law that prohibits federal employees from performing personal tasks for their supervisors.

Pruitt reportedly also asked his security detail to drive him to various Ritz-Carlton hotels, looking for a lotion that he’s particularly fond of, and had them pick up his dry cleaning. EPA emails also recently revealed that an EPA aide, at the administrator’s request, attempted to set up a meeting between Pruitt and an executive with the fast-food company Chick-fil-A, in an attempt to find out if the company would grant Pruitt’s wife a franchise.

The EPA administrator is now under 15 separate investigations by various government agencies, including the Office of Management and Budget, the Government Accountability Office, the EPA Inspector General, and a White House internal investigation into his below-market rental of a Washington condo from the wife of a lobbyist who has business with the EPA. In the wake of these ethics scandals, at least four House Republicans have called on Pruitt to resign.

Jace Woodrum of Conservation Colorado told Colorado Politics that Pruitt is “unfit to serve” as EPA administrator. Pruitt “has wasted taxpayer dollars while pushing for cuts to the EPA budget that threaten Coloradans’ health and environment,” Woodrum said.

“Pruitt will undoubtedly tout his attempts to undo decades of environmental progress, but Coloradans will be thinking about his first-class travels, lobbying violations, and attacks on bedrock conservation protections that are vital to Colorado’s way of life.”

Marianne Goodland

Marianne Goodland

Marianne Goodland is the chief legislative reporter for Colorado Politics. She's covered the Colorado General Assembly for 20 years, starting off in 1998 with the Silver & Gold Record, the editorially-independent newspaper at CU that was shuttered in 2009. She also writes for six rural newspapers in northeastern Colorado. Marianne specializes in rural issues, agriculture, water and, during election season, campaign finance. In her free time (ha!) she lives in Lakewood with her husband, Jeff; a cantankerous Shih-Tzu named Sophie; and Gunther the cat. She is also an award-winning professional harpist.