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The sky is falling, and the oceans will soon cover the land.
That is what Chicken Little leftists would have us believe following the confirmation of former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as director of the Environmental Protection Agency.
The hysterical warnings from the anti-free market crowd were as ludicrous as they were predictable; Pruitt is a conservative, so he wants dirty water, dirty air, toxic land, and he will allow corporations free rein to dump chemical sludge into our pristine waterways.
In reality, Pruitt is not a conservative hard-liner at all. Unlike many conservatives, he doesn’t want to get rid of the EPA, but believes it can play a vital role in protecting the environment. What makes Pruitt unacceptable to the radical Left is his respect for the constitutional power of the states to direct their own affairs, his record of fighting to protect private property rights, and his respect for the Rule of Law.
For decades progressives have used federal agencies, and the mountains of regulations they generate, to achieve through the courts and the federal bureaucracy what they have been unable to achieve at the polls. The EPA has become one of the most dangerous of all federal agencies, not only abusing their power but destroying the lives of innocent Americans in the process.
Just ask Andy Johnson, a Wyoming farmer who sued the EPA after he was fined $16 million for building a small fishing pond on his property. After having done his due diligence and receiving all necessary permits and approvals to build a small pond on his property, the EPA claimed Johnson violated federal law, arguing his pond was subject to the Clean Water Act. After years of harassment and threats by the EPA, Johnson reached a settlement last May where all charges and fines were dropped in exchange for planting willow trees around the pond to prevent erosion.
Johnson’s story is just one of thousands like it, and progressive environmentalists fear Pruitt because not only has he promised to end such abuses, but as Oklahoma AG he filed fourteen lawsuits against the EPA to stop these types of abuse.
In a recent interview, Pruitt explained his philosophy of protecting the environment while simultaneously protecting property rights, stating “I reject this paradigm that says we can’t be both pro-environment and pro-energy. We are blessed with great national resources, and we should be good stewards of those. But we’ve been the best in the world at showing you do that while also growing jobs and the economy. Too many people put on a jersey in this fight. I want to send the message that we can and will do both.”
In a departure from the radicalism of the Obama administration, Pruitt sees it as his job to enforce the law as written, rather than create law through regulatory fiat or “sue and settle” (getting friendly organizations to sue before a friendly judge, and create law through the ruling). Pruitt argues that “Agencies exist to administer the law. Congress passes statutes, and those statutes are very clear on the job EPA has to do. We’re going to do that job.”
In light of that philosophy, Pruitt has already begun to roll back Obama administration excesses and abuses. He is withdrawing from the Clean Power Plan (Obama’s climate regulation scheme geared towards destroying the fossil fuel industry), and the 2015 Waters of the United States rule, through which the Obama EPA quite literally claimed the authority to regulate and control every single stream, creek, pond, or mud hole as a tributary to a “navigable waterway”. He also declared his agency will review the Clean Air Act to determine whether it even has the authority to regulate carbon dioxide, which has been the lynchpin of the progressive effort to give government control over industry.
Instead, says Pruitt, his focus will be on cleaning up the air and water of the United States to correct and prevent problems like the lead poisoning of the Flint, Michigan water supply, and the unfolding failure of the Oroville Dam in California, which is putting tens of thousands of lives at risk. He also wants to revamp the EPA’s process for producing environmental data to make it scientifically driven rather than ideologically driven, in order to restore trust in the reports produced by his agency.
He also acknowledged the primary role of the states in keeping the environment safe, arguing that “Every statute makes clear this is supposed to be a cooperative relationship…that Congress understood that a one-size-fits-all model doesn’t work for environmental regulation, and that the state departments of environmental quality have an enormous role to play.” He vehemently opposes the position of the Obama EPA which saw the states as “a vessel of federal will”.
So while career progressives in the EPA seek to undermine their new boss, and while Hollywood elitists like Susan Sarandon wring their hands and declare Pruitt’s appointment to be the “end of the EPA”, average Americans can sleep soundly knowing there is now a man at the head of that agency that wants to make sure they have clean air to breathe and clean water to drink, while also making sure bureaucratic thugs don’t ruin their lives if they decide to build a pond or clear brush off their land.
And that is welcomed news indeed.
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