Scott Pruitt and the 'Paradigm Shift' at Trump's EPA

In just his first year, the high-profile and controversial cabinet member “has begun to dismantle former president Barack Obama’s environmental legacy.”

2 minute read

January 8, 2018, 10:00 AM PST

By Katharine Jose


Scott Pruitt

Gage Skidmore / Flickr

At The Washington Post, Brady Dennis and Juliet Eilperin review the first year of the Environmental Protection Agency under President Trump and find profound change.

In addition to cutting EPA funding by 31 percent, Trump appointed climate-change skeptic (turned climate-change denier) Scott Pruitt to lead the agency; from the EPA website to the Clean Power Plan, Pruitt immediately began to undo much of what was done under the Obama administration.

“In legal maneuvers and executive actions, in public speeches and closed-door meetings with industry groups, he has moved to shrink the agency’s reach, alter its focus, and pause or reverse numerous environmental rules. The effect has been to steer the EPA in the direction sought by those being regulated.”

The tenor at the agency surprised few; as attorney general of Oklahoma, Pruitt sued the EPA 14 times, “and challenged the agency’s authority to regulate toxic mercury pollution, smog, carbon emissions from power plants and the quality of wetlands and other waters.”

Pruitt has also presided over a “massive exodus” of EPA staff members, which is partly a result of funding cuts and partly because “[c]ritics describe his short tenure as an assault on the agency’s mission, its science and its employees.”

Dennis and Eilperin interviewed the original head of the EPA, who served under two Republican presidents.

"We’ve spent 40 years putting together an apparatus to protect public health and the environment from a lot of different pollutants," said William Ruckelshaus, the EPA’s first administrator, who led the agency under Richard M. Nixon and Ronald Reagan. "He’s pulling that whole apparatus down."

During his tenure as the AG of an oil state, Pruitt was widely considered a potential candidate for governor, and there are now rumors that he may run for a senate seat. Speaking with Brady and Eilperin, he defended his approach to running the federal agency tasked with protecting the environment.

"In an interview, Pruitt said a priority during his first 10 months in office has been listening to ‘stakeholders that actually live under the regulations that we adopt…I don’t understand how that’s not what I should be doing.'"

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