NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — U.S. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt on Saturday rallied conservatives and promised to rein in the agency.
Speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Pruitt said he would focus on adhering to the formal rulemaking process and stick to the confines of federal law. At the same time, the new administrator said he would promote clean air and water and clean up Superfund sites.
“There’s some very important work to protect and provide leadership in the government space. But what’s happened in the last several years is the previous administration was so focused on climate change and so focused on CO2 that some of those other priorities were left behind,” Pruitt said.
“We as Republicans don’t have anything to be apologetic about with respect to the environment. Nothing. We have always believed that you can grow jobs and grow the economy while also … being a good steward of the environment.”
Pruitt hinted at big action this week to start rolling back controversial environmental regulations.
“I think there are some regulations that in the near term need to be rolled back in a very aggressive way,” he said. Others may take longer, he noted. In particular, he mentioned the Clean Power Plan, methane standards for the oil and gas industry, and the Waters of the United States rule. Pruitt added that “executive agencies only have the power that Congress has given them.”
A former college baseball player, Pruitt repeatedly used a slogan coined by legend Yogi Berra.
“The future ain’t what it used to be,” Pruitt told attendees who stood and applauded for him in the closing hours of CPAC.
Still, he said that when he made his first address to staff last week, he “wanted to send a message to the agency that there are some very important things EPA does.”
Pruitt said states care about clean air and water and are “partners, not adversaries.” The new EPA administrator said he would devote resources to visit governors and work with them. One of his first official acts last week was to sit down with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R).
While Pruitt touted his support for a clean environment, his reported hiring picks suggest he will focus mostly on nixing regulations. To lead his Office of Policy, Pruitt will choose Samantha Dravis, who aided in fights against EPA in senior roles with the Republican Attorneys General Association and its affiliated Rule of Law Defense Fund, according to Axios.