Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt pointed out a seldom discussed issue on Wednesday with former-President Barack Obama’s climate policy.
Pruitt sat before the House Committee on Appropriations to defend the EPA’s 2019 budget Wednesday afternoon after getting grilled in another hearing that morning. Democrat Rep. Chellie Pingree questioned Pruitt’s stance on climate change and rebuked the EPA administrator for rolling back regulations intended to cut carbon emissions.
In the debate on carbon regulations, arguments over economics and the fate of the world usually take the forefront. Emissions regulations overly burden businesses and are less effective than market-driven technological advancement, Republicans generally argue. Democrats tend to stress the need for action to combat climate change and protect the Earth from irreparable harm from severe weather events and rising oceans.
During a line of questioning from Pingree, Pruitt took a different tact. He focused on the process through which the EPA enacts regulations and the extent of the EPA’s authority.
Early in the exchange, Pingree began reading letters from children in her district lamenting their futures if climate change continues unabated. One child said his family tradition of camping out and eating lobster on one of Maine’s islands would soon be impossible because of climate change.
“If the oceans keep warming and pushing lobsters north, there will most likely not be the same island culture that there is today,” Pinegree quoted. “Lobster fishermen will be replaced by tourists, and there will be no reason for me to return to the island with my children.”
“That might be through the eyes of children; but if you’re not going to listen to scientists, who are you going to listen to?” The congresswoman asked.
“What’s lost in this discussion is what authority does the EPA have to regulate,” Pruitt said.
“There were two efforts made by the previous administration to regulate CO2, and both of them were struck down by the courts,” Pruitt continued. “The tailoring rule that the previous administration adopted with respect to CO2 and the Clean Power Plan was stayed by the U.S. Supreme Court, and it was unprecedented. That had never happened for the U.S. Supreme Court to issue a stay while a case was pending at a lower court level.”
“That does not allow us to say we are not going to deal with this issue,” Pinegree responded.
“I can only take the steps that Congress authorizes me to take,” Pruitt said, faulting the Obama administration for trying to “pinch-hit” for Congress.
The congresswoman followed up, saying what was done in the past is irrelevant to the present, and she wanted action from Pruitt. Pruitt has made statements in the past regarding climate change, she also pointed out and took issue with what those implied about the action(s) he would take to combat it going forward.