Just the presence of an EPA Administrator at an annual gathering of over 850 fuel and energy companies is a bit shocking. But the message Pruitt delivered proceeded to excite the room like no other speaker I have seen in many years. Setting the tone right from the start Administrator Pruitt was animated in his support of the roles that States and Industry must play as key partners in the implementation of environmental regulations that protect air and water quality. This is consistent with Pruitt’s history as an advocate of states rights and of fighting the EPA’s efforts in the past to unilaterally impose new federal regulations on States without due process.
I stopped keeping count of how many times Administrator Pruitt said “clean air and clean water”. It was crystal that the EPA’s previous obsession with CO2 emissions under Administrator McCarthy is being rooted out by Pruitt at every level and every opportunity. That focus is being replaced by three primary goals – cleaner air, cleaner water and a return to much more active remediation and restoration of superfund sites. Pruitt used stories about highly radioactive sites that have been sitting next to several of our largest cities for the last 30 years with no progress on cleaning them up as pointed examples of his efforts to return the EPA to it’s previous mission before the agency was taken over by global warming fever.
Pruitt used a visit to a work site with the Corp of Engineers who pointed out to him that a temporary ditch of rainwater runoff from a the project was now an official “Waters of the US” to highlight the over-reach and downright silliness of what he called a “defective” regulation. The administrator must have referred to both WOTUS (Waters of the US) and the CPP (Clean Power Plan) a dozen times during his talk as the worst examples of regulatory over reach.
Calling out senators who have criticized his actions to roll back these regulations Pruitt challenged those critics to pass new laws if they want to update and amend key environmental cornerstones like the Clean Air Act. He pointed out that the key act behind so much of America’s progress towards cleaner air had not been amended by Congress for over 30 years and that the EPA as part of the executive branch was not constitutionally authorized to make laws only to enforce them.
The loudest applause of the afternoon was received when Pruitt reaffirmed his commitment to treat industry and land owners as partners and fellow stewards of the environment not as hostile opposition to be run down and run over. Stating that while “bad actors do exist and will be caught and punished” the majority of Americans and the companies they own and operate have more incentive than anyone to preserve their property and protect their local air and water quality.
In talking with the audience afterwards most were a bit stunned at the candid businesslike approach that Pruitt is executing with and that he is clearly attempting to install deeply into the agency at every level. When business leaders hear a government official talk about transparent processes that meet committed deadlines they listen hard and quickly realize that having a government that actually works could supercharge economic growth to levels the US economy has not seen in decades.
Kudos to SIGMA for reaching out to the EPA and not treating the agency as a hostile opponent. Credit to Pruitt for accepting the challenge to speak a gathering of many of the countries largest energy companies and for treating them like the adults they are and not like wayward children. If we had more communication and collaboration between industry and government like these two organizations demonstrated this week we might actually start getting things done in this country again while continuing to lead the world in air and water quality.