Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt heads to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) headquarters Tuesday to address staffers about the agency’s new direction under the Trump administration.
Pruitt is expected emphasize federalism and an elevated role for states in environmental policy while also stressing moving EPA away from its international global warming crusade back to its traditional role of protecting air and water quality.
Pruitt “strongly believes environmental law, policy, and progress are all based on cooperation among the states, cooperation between the states and EPA, and cooperation between regulators and the public,” reads EPA’s latest release, congratulating Pruitt on his swearing in.
“Administrator Pruitt is recognized as a national leader in the cause to restore the proper balance between the states and federal government,” reads EPA’s release, adding Pruitt will also promote “common-sense” regulations.
President Donald Trump already laid out plans to roll back former President Barack Obama’s “Climate Action Plan” and the EPA’s “Waters of the U.S.” (WOTUS) rule. Pruitt, who sued EPA over both, will take point on dismantling those policies.
EPA published the most consequential climate plan regulation, the Clean Power Plan (CPP). The CPP and WOTUS are being challenged by more than half of U.S. states’ attorneys general in court, including Pruitt.
Pruitt and other AGs argued both CPP and WOTUS greatly expand federal power at the expense of state’s rights and impose costly burdens on businesses. Pruitt may specifically address both those rules in his speech to EPA employees.
Pruitt could also announce some imminent executive orders from Trump. The president himself could even go to EPA headquarters in the near future to announce those orders, but sources say EPA employees wouldn’t even show up if that were the case.
Revolt From Within
The Senate confirmed Pruitt Friday, largely along party lines, over the objections of many EPA employees and environmentalists who believes the former attorney general will slash budgets and roll back regulations.
Pruitt’s agenda is popular with Republicans and the industries EPA regulates, but has been hotly opposed by environmental activists who no longer have an agency head willing to collaborate to further their agendas.
EPA employees, many of whom are true believers in the agency’s cause, plan on resisting Trump’s environmental agenda.
Staffers “who stay to fight actions they deem ill-advised or illegal by quietly providing information of what is happening inside their agencies to advocacy groups and the media,” Politico reported.
A small group of agency employees are already using encryptions apps, like Signal, to coordinate their actions. The potentially illegal use of encrypted texts to avoid federal records requirements sparked congressional inquiry.
Pruitt could address EPA’s lagging morale, but it’s unclear what he would say. Many at EPA are deadset against the Trump administration rolling back years of agency work and are wary of budget and staff cuts.
A leaked transition team memo titled, “Potential opportunities for budget reductions,” obtained by Axios, laid out $513 million in cuts to the “states and tribal assistance grants.”
The memo mentioned $193 million in savings from eliminating agency global warming programs and another $109 million in savings cutting “environment programs and management.”
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