Energy

EPA’s Scott Pruitt Pushes Forward With Trump’s Agenda As Dems Clamor For His Removal

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Michael Bastasch Energy Editor

Calls from Democratic lawmakers and environmental activists for Scott Pruitt’s removal have not stopped the Environmental Protection Agency administrator from planning his next moves to implement President Donald Trump’s agenda.

At a Republican National Lawyers Association meeting on Friday, Pruitt laid out what he hoped to accomplish at EPA in 2019. First, Pruitt mentioned finalizing the repeal of major Obama-era regulations.

“I anticipate the proposed redefining of ‘waters of the United States’ will come out here very soon, and we will finalize that by the end of the year,” Pruitt said at the event where he accepted an award.

Replacement for the Clean Power Plan will be finalized in 2018 as well, Pruitt said. In the upcoming year, Pruitt would also focus on less high-profile reforms to EPA’s permitting and reporting processes, he also told Republican lawyers.

“Just to give you one example, when I came in I asked the question of our team, ‘how long does it take us to go through the permitting process,'” Pruitt said. “And it wasn’t even measured. We didn’t even know.”

EPA has been developing a process “where the agency is going to be able to make a decision, up or down, on a permit within six months by the end of the year,” Pruitt added.

“That’s something that states do routinely; it’s just we’ve never set that objective. And I can tell you we’re not doing it in six months right now,” Pruitt said.

Pruitt has already made moves to streamline the permitting processes, including repealing the “once in always in” policy for permitting industrial facilities. Pruitt also issued a guidance to clear up uncertainties surrounding New Source Review permitting for facilities.

Pruitt also issued an April 12 memo to assert control over Clean Water Act permitting previously given to regional administrators. The decision was made for more consistency in permitting decisions across the country — a problem property rights advocates have harped on for decades, EPA said.

The EPA administrator is under fire from Democratic lawmakers for alleged overspending and ethical lapses, including circumventing the White House to give two staffers raises and living in a condo co-owned by the wife of a D.C. lobbyist.

On Friday, Pruitt signed a memo requiring all purchasing decisions to be approved by three top EPA officials before they could move forward. EPA hopes the memo will provide lawmakers with assurance future agency spending is thoroughly vetted.

Democrats grilled Pruitt over the scandals in two Capitol Hill hearings Thursday, but Pruitt gave no indication he was going to step down or slow down implementing Trump’s agenda.

“We need to look at the cause and effect of how we do business for permitting, reporting and the rest, so that we are actually advancing environmental outcomes,” Pruitt said.

When it comes to collecting data from power plants and other regulated entities, “we ought not just collect data for the sake of collecting data, it ought to actually lead to something,” Pruitt said.

“We shouldn’t just go to any industry, sector or state and say ‘just give us this stuff,'” he said. “It ought to be used for a purpose”

Pruitt’s already acted on this effort as well. The EPA in March 2017 withdrew its request for information on methane emissions and equipment from oil and gas operations — a regulation the Obama administration put in place.

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