EPA Chief Defends U.S. Record On Carbon Emissions, Sticks Up For State Environmental Regulators
The United States is already a world leader in reducing energy and industrial emissions and won’t be pressured into keeping the so-called Clean Power Plan (CPP) and other regulatory policies of the Obama administration, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt said.
“We have done better than anybody in the world at growing an economy and also being a good steward of our environment,” Pruitt said during an April 2 interview on Fox News Sunday. “We have nothing to be apologetic about.”
Pruitt is a leading figure in the Trump administration’s rollback of President Barack Obama’s climate-change agenda, which aimed to limit the production and consumption of oil, natural gas and coal. An executive order signed last week has started the process of reviewing and unwinding many Obama-era regulations, including the CPP. The CPP was developed after the Obama administration’s preferred program, legislation establishing a cap-and-trade system for carbon dioxide, failed to pass a Congress controlled by Democrats in 2010.
But the CPP was stayed by the U.S. Supreme Court last year, thanks to legal challenges from states, trade unions, business groups and other stakeholders. Environmental activist groups like the Sierra Club have called the Trump administration’s executive order “the single biggest attack on climate action in U.S. history” and have vowed to defend Obama’s regulations “in the courts, in the streets, and at the state and local level across America.”
The activists, however, have been reluctant to acknowledge that the fossil-fuel industry is largely responsible for U.S. carbon emissions being at their lowest levels since the early 1990s. Pruitt pressed this point when challenged on the Trump administration’s approach to environmental issues.
“We are actually pre-1994 levels with respect to our [carbon dioxide] footprint,” the EPA chief said. “This country is doing far better than most across the globe.”
“You know why? Largely because of innovation and technology, hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling [and] because there’s been a conversion to natural gas in the generation of electricity,” Pruitt said.
Environmental activists have also attacked a series of proposed budget cuts for the EPA, with the Natural Resources Defense Council calling the reductions “outrageous” and “anti-environment.” But Pruitt countered that a smaller role for the federal EPA means a bigger role for states in regulating air, water and other environmental issues.
“Within the first week of having been on the job, I met with 20-plus governors,” Pruitt said. “And those governors across the country are committed to [being] pro-jobs and pro-environment. They have to serve their people in those states as well.
“And I will tell you … this attitude in Washington, D.C. that people in Texas and Oklahoma and Kansas and Colorado and the rest of the country don’t care about the water they drink or the air they breathe, and are not going to take care of the air and the water locally and in the states, I just don’t believe that,” he said.
“That narrative is something we reject and we look forward to partnering with states across the country to achieve good outcomes.”