Five of the biggest wins Pruitt racked up during his time at the EPA

By Chris White

President Donald Trump accepted Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt’s resignation letter Thursday, but the embattled agency chief managed to complete a large chunk of the president’s climate agenda before leaving.

Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

Scott Pruitt has resigned as the 14th administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. But he has many accomplishments.

Trump pegged Pruitt to lead the agency in February 2017 as the president sought to nix huge swaths of former President Barack Obama’s regulations. The former Oklahoma attorney general was famous for filing nearly a dozen lawsuits against Obama’s EPA.

Pruitt cited death threats and the seemingly never-ending reports about his flight travels and excessive spending for his decision to resign. Trump praised his embattled EPA head in a tweet Thursday, telling his followers that “Pruitt has done an outstanding job.”

Here is a list of five of Pruitt’s most significant accomplishments during his time manning the helm at the EPA.

Convincing Trump To Ditch The Paris Climate Agreement

Pruitt was 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.

Trump said the Obama administration poorly negotiated the accord and failed to put American workers first while hashing out the agreement’s details. White House aides said the administration would withdraw from the Paris accord using the process laid out in the agreement.

The pro-Paris contingent within the White House argued Trump should stay in the agreement for diplomatic reasons. It also said since the Paris Agreement was not legally binding, it would have no effect on Trump’s domestic agenda — a point contested by Paris opponents. But Pruitt and former White House adviser Stephen Bannon were two of the voices that ultimately convinced Trump to pull the trigger.

Rolling Back The Clean Power Plan And Other Obama-Era Rules

Pruitt 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.

Obama first proposed enacting the CPP in 2014 and finalized 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.”

Undoing the rule, which Obama argued was needed to fulfill the U.S.’ Paris Agreement pledge, will save Americans $33 billion in compliance costs, despite the previous administration claiming it would only cost $8.4 billion and millions through public health benefits.

Pruitt moved to undo, delay or block more than 30 environmental regulations during the first few months of his tenure. The rollbacks were more than any other administrator in the agency’s 47-year history over such a short period of time, according to a February 2017 report from The New York Times.

Nixing Obama’s Waters Of The United States (WOTUS) Rule 

The Clean Water Rule, or WOTUS, was enacted in 2015 to clarify which bodies of water and wetlands are designated for federal protection. The regulation was met with immediate backlash as critics pointed to ambiguity in the rule opening the door for possible government overreach.

Pruitt announced on June 27, 2017, that the Trump administration would begin repealing the Obama-era rule, promising to return power to the states and provide regulatory certainty to farmers and energy providers.

The EPA began its repeal of WOTUS in July to reconstruct the rule in a manner consistent with former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s dissenting opinion in the 2006 Rapanos v. U.S. case. The now-deceased jurist decided Obama’s regulation was vague and affected nearly every waterway in the country. Obama argued the rule was necessary to protect water quality and end the confusion over jurisdiction in the wake of two Supreme Court cases. Environmentalists echoed that view.

Rewrote And Dramatically Reduced Obama’s Fuel Emission Standards

The Obama administration adopted stringent new vehicle emissions standards in 2012, most of which would have applied to vehicles made between 2022 and 2025. The standards would have required automakers to nearly double their vehicles’ average fuel economy to 54.5 miles per gallon.

The new emissions standards were a component of Obama’s pledge to adhere to the Paris Climate Agreement.

Pruitt presided over the EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s re-drafting of the mileage standards. The move ignited a fight with California, a state with a waiver to set its own car regulations. State officials vowed to keep intact Obama’s tougher regulations — Pruitt expressed interest in removing California’s waiver.

Refashioned EPA Into An Agency Dedicated To Protecting Public Health

Pruitt expressed concerns that the EPA had swayed for years away from its initial mission: protecting public health. The agency adopted a new strategy of saving the earth from global warming, he’s argued, instead of assuring Americans have access to clean drinking water.

“Everyone looks at the Obama administration as being the environmental savior. Really? He was the environmental savior?” Pruitt said during a September 2017 interview before rattling off a list of examples where Obama’s EPA stumbled on environmental matters.

“Well, he left us with more Superfund sites than when he came in,” he said. “He had Gold King [the 2015 mine wastewater spill] and Flint, Michigan [drinking water crisis]. He tried to regulate CO2 twice and flunked twice. Struck out. So what’s so great about that record? I don’t know.”

Pruitt was referring to toxic waste sites folded into the government’s Superfund program, which is intended to clean the most dangerous and polluted places in the U.S. The agency has either been unable or unwilling to decontaminate many of the program’s 1,300 locations, allowing pollution to fester.

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Images courtesy of HjalmarGerbig/Wikimedia Commons and Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

2 thoughts on “Five of the biggest wins Pruitt racked up during his time at the EPA

  1. This New York Times article has videos demonstrating the rapid decrease of CO2eq reduction by the US compared to the much less rapid reduction by Europe.

    The major decrease for the US, agreed to by Obama, would have meant excessive economic dislocations/disturbances within the US economy, and would have been a perfect recipe for a major long-term recession due to:

    1) The debilitations of chronic federal budget deficits of about $500 b/y
    2) The chronic goods trade deficits of $750 b/y
    3) The US being a huge debtor nation; $8.3 trillion in 2016
    3) The world peacekeeping costs (shirked by most NATO members)

    – Obama, without permission from the US Congress, committed $3 billion to a Green Climate Fund to literally buy the votes of poor countries (India, Turkey, etc.,), so they would commit to COP21. No wonder Obama was loved.
    – Some of these countries are among the most corrupt in the world.
    – Some of that money likely would disappear into Swiss bank accounts, instead of being used for COP21 goals, as there is NO monitoring mechanism in place.
    – Obama paid $1 billion to the Fund just before Trump was sworn in.
    – Because the US is leaving COP21, the other $2 billion STAYS IN THE US. See URL for full transcript of COP21 withdrawal announcement.

  2. Green Climate Fund:

    A total of 193 countries signed on to COP21, but that means nothing, unless they agree to do something, to undertake pain. The majority of these countries are underdeveloped and developing countries. They signed on to COP21 in expectation of payments from the Green Climate Fund. Only a few developed countries have made financial contributions to the Green Climate Fund. See below URLs.

    The UN would administer the Fund. As of 17 May 2017, a total of $10.3 billion had been pledged (most not yet paid) to the Fund.

    – EU member states pledged $4.7 billion (UK $1.2 b; France $1.0 b; Germany $1.0 b; Others $1.5 b)
    – US $3.0 billion; already paid $1 billion.
    – Rest of World $2.6 billion (Japan $1.5 b; China $0; India $0; Others $1.1 b). See table in URL.

    The Fund’s initial goal is to distribute to recipient countries $100 billion in 2020, and much more in EACH YEAR thereafter. The US, about 20% of gross world product, likely would be hit up for $25 billion in 2020 (China would not pay, India would get money), and much more in EACH YEAR thereafter. That UN-managed Fund likely would become the mother of all boondoggles.

    No. Thank you, said Trump. He was not about to let the UN do boondoggle projects with US taxpayer money, especially when considering the insufficient outcomes of almost all prior COP events.

    As the world is making so little progress towards RE, the US, “doing its RE part” by staying with COP21, would be engaging in an expensive exercise in futility.

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