The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began operating 46 years ago after former President Richard Nixon proposed it as a way to address mounting pollution concerns across the country.
EPA celebrated its 46th anniversary Friday, just weeks before President-elect Donald Trump likely takes the agency in a totally different direction compared to the last eight years under President Barack Obama, focusing on clean air and quality instead of global warming.
Not only is Trump looking to roll back Obama-era regulations, the incoming administration reportedly has plans to fundamentally reform major decades-old environmental laws: The Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act.
No doubt, Trump will work to repeal the “waters of the United States” rule and the Clean Power Plan rule for power plants. But his handlers suggested the new administration would work with Congress to pursue major legislative changes to stop regulatory overreach.
“We have to get into the weeds so that we can determine definitively what is and what is not a pollutant,” North Dakota Rep. Kevin Cramer, Trump’s energy policy adviser, recently told reporters.
“Have a more prescriptive and clearly defined directions rather than these broad authorities, authorizations, that give too much flexibility to the bureaucracy,” he said.
To do this, Trump has put together an EPA transition team to come up with a plan to figure out which regulations to roll back and what candidates would be good fits for agency positions.
Heading up that team is Myron Ebell, the director of environmental policy at the free market Competitive Enterprise Institute and a longtime critic of EPA regulations. Environmentalists railed against Ebell being on the team, calling him a “climate criminal.”
Activists even started a White House petition to have Ebell removed from the transition team, but the petition was removed from the “We The People” website for violating its terms of participation.
Trump’s not likely going to listen to environmentalists. He’s more focused on clean air and “crystal clean water” going forward, and says most regulations can be cut because they hamper U.S. competitiveness.
One of Trump’s main campaign messages was putting coal miners back to work by repealing global warming regulations that make it nearly impossible to build new coal plants. Trump also wants to roll back other environmental regulations holding back oil and natural gas production.
Trump’s appeal to coal miners helped swing Ohio and Pennsylvania his way in the election. Jobs, energy independence and basic environmental protections are Trump’s main energy goals.
Ebell shares Trump’s goals.
“I have dedicated my career to fighting for the best policies to promote energy affordability and protect both our environment and our climate,” Ebell wrote in a November blog post.
“I have been frustrated by the leadership of the modern environmental movement,” Ebell wrote, adding “the leaders of these groups are more concerned with concentrating power in Washington than in improving the environment outside the Beltway.”
So who will head a Trump EPA?
That remains to be seen. So far, Trump has interviewed two candidates for the job, but has not yet made his choice.
Kathleen Hartnett White, a former Texas regulator and senior-fellow-in-residence at the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation, is one choice. White recently met with the president-elect in Trump Tower and had this to say to The Houston Chronicle:
He wants the EPA to run more carefully, to use stronger science and be unabashedly conscientious to the effect of more and more rules on existing employment and job creation,” White said. “I have no desire to put words in his mouth. But as he is in other areas, he likes a good deal.
The other candidate, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, made a name for himself challenging EPA regulations in the court system, including the Clean Power Plan.
“I think the vision is for a very different EPA if either of these candidates is nominated,” said Scott Segal, an energy lobbyist at Bracewell, told E&E News.
“They have taken the major statutes they’ve been entrusted with to places that Congress never intended,” Segall said. “I think any of these appointees would be a signal that that kind of activity will no longer be tolerated.”
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