Energy

Liberal Writers Try To Change The Media Narrative On EPA’s Scott Pruitt

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Michael Bastasch Energy Editor

With President Donald Trump publicly backing Scott Pruitt amid increased calls for his head, liberal outlets have changed their focus from Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator’s scandals to his “lack of regulatory rollbacks.”

Pruitt’s biggest deregulatory actions are in the proposal stage, and target rules already held up by the courts, the argument goes. Liberal writers are trying to change Pruitt’s perception on the right as a champion of deregulation.

“The truth is that Scott Pruitt has done a lot less to dismantle the EPA than he — or his critics — would have you believe,” Politico columnist Michael Grunwald wrote in an article published Saturday.

“While Pruitt is often hailed (or attacked) as Trump’s most effective (or destructive) deregulatory warrior, the recent spotlight on his ethics—allegations of a sweetheart housing deal; pay raises for favored aides; lavish spending on travel, furniture and security; and retaliation against underlings who questioned him—has arguably overshadowed his lack of regulatory rollbacks during his first 15 months in Washington,” Grunwald wrote.

Democratic lawmakers and environmentalists want Pruitt to step down as EPA head in the wake of reporting he frequently flew first-class, circumvented the White House to gets staffers raises and rented a room in a condo from the wife of a D.C. energy lobbyist.

Conservatives have come to Pruitt’s defense, arguing the former Oklahoma attorney general’s successes in rolling back Obama-era policies make his vital to the Trump administration. Environmentalists have attacked Pruitt for months over rolling back regulations, labeling him “Polluting Pruitt.”

Now, liberal writers are trying to change the popular perception of Pruitt’s accomplishments.

The New Republic’s Emily Atkin noted that “most of Pruitt’s actions are in the proposal stage, and many are years away from being finalized,” though she did admit Pruitt had been “prolific” at tackling Obama-era policies.

“But so far, Pruitt’s biggest achievement is that he appears successful. That explains his good standing with Trump, who values appearances more than anything else,” she wrote.

The New York Times published an article on Saturday on how “legal experts and White House officials say that in Mr. Pruitt’s haste to undo government rules and in his eagerness to hold high-profile political events promoting his agenda, he has often been less than rigorous in following important procedures, leading to poorly crafted legal efforts that risk being struck down in court.”

The Times, mostly quoting Pruitt critics, reported that [s]ix of Mr. Pruitt’s efforts to delay or roll back Obama-era regulations … have been struck down by the courts” and “backed down on a proposal to delay implementing smog regulations and another to withdraw a regulation on mercury pollution.”

To some extent, it’s true Pruitt’s major deregulatory efforts are still in early stages. The Clean Power Plan repeal, for example, is in its proposal stage, and EPA has yet to formally revise Obama-era fuel economy standards. Pruitt also lost court battles over repealing some Obama regulations.

And Grunwald was correct when he wrote “major federal regulations are extremely difficult and time-consuming to enact, and just as difficult and time-consuming to reverse.” The Obama administration had eight years to impose its agenda, but Pruitt’s been around for about a year.

However, that doesn’t mean Pruitt’s not rolled back a significant number of rules. An EPA report released in March claimed 22 deregulatory actions in 2017, which could save $1 billion in regulatory costs.

EPA has another 44 deregulatory actions underway, meaning 2018 could see billions more dollars worth of regulations repealed.

Either way, Trump seems happy with Pruitt’s progress on rolling back regulations.

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