Outgoing Environmental Protections Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt’s decision to resign Thursday is unlikely to slow down the Trump administration’s zeal to roll back dozens of environmental rules created during the past decade.
President Donald Trump has sought to reverse more than 70 environmental rules, The New York Times reported in October 2017. Pruitt’s resignation is unlikely to affect that trajectory because his temporary replacement is charting a similar course and is considered a smooth operator.
The EPA has been involved in more than a third of the policy reversals identified by TheNYT’s report, which was based on research from Harvard Law School’s Environmental Rollback Tracker. Harvard created the structure to follow Trump’s climate agenda.
The process is unlikely to slow. Andrew Wheeler, the new acting chief of the agency, is a former coal lobbyist who also wants to roll back environmental regulations. Unlike Pruitt, he is considered a smooth operator within bureaucratic circles and therefore more likely to have a deft touch on such matters.
Wheeler co-headed Faegre Baker Daniels, a law and consulting firm, and was previously registered as a lobbyist for coal-mining giant Murray Energy, but stepped down in 2017 before Trump tapped him for the EPA job. (RELATED: Dems And EPA Insiders Are Freaking Out Over Trump’s Refusal To Nix Pruitt)
Pruitt’s rollbacks were not always smooth, mostly because the administration sometimes skipped steps like notifying the public about potential measures and asking for comment, moves that prompted environmentalists to file lawsuits designed to force agencies to follow their own policies. Despite the missteps, the outgoing EPA chief managed to pull back scores of rules.
The EPA and other agencies have officially overturned nearly 46 regulations, according to TheNYT, while another 30 rollbacks are on the chopping blocks. Six rules governing pollution and air emissions have also been trash-heaped, while another 12 are destined for the history books. Trump has also targeted rules hemming in oil and gas exploration: a total of 18 rules affecting oil and gas have been rolled back.
Pruitt was also instrumental in convincing Trump to permanently “cancel” the Paris Agreement, a non-binding agreement Obama signed in 2015 pledging to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. The White House was split on the issue, even as the president issued executive orders peeling away Obama-era global warming regulations. He also faced off against some of Obama’s biggest achievements.
The former Oklahoma attorney general announced in October 2017 that the Trump administration would begin the process of repealing one of Obama’s signature environmental regulations: the Clean Power Plan. (RELATED: Here Are Five Of The Biggest Wins Pruitt Racked Up During His Time At The EPA)
Obama first proposed enacting the CPP in 2014 and finalized it in 2015 — the rule was designed to limit the amount of greenhouse gases power plants can emit. The plan aimed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. It was a centerpiece of what Obama critics referred to as his “war on coal.”
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