Just days into his tenure as EPA chief, Administrator Scott Pruitt was at President Donald Trump’s side as the president signed an executive order repealing the Waters of the U.S. rule. In an exclusive interview with the American Farm Bureau, Pruitt said the WOTUS repeal is ushering in a new era at EPA, one in which states have primacy and private property owners have certainty.
According to Pruitt, regulators totally missed the marked with WOTUS, going well beyond the authority afforded the agency under the Clean Water Act and writing a rule that had farmers, builders and many others fearful for their livelihoods.
Pruitt is particularly focused on restoring states’ leadership when it comes to the environment.
“At the end of the day the goal has to be regulatory certainty, objectively measured, so that the role of the EPA and the role of the state departments of environmental quality, and the water resources boards and all those agencies at the state levels—as well as private property owners and towns and municipalities across the country that make land-use decisions—that their authority, their power, their decision-making is respected and that we stay in our lane,” he said.
In that vein, Pruitt said the agency will no longer issue de facto rules under the guise of guidance.
“Guidance is supposed to do what? It’s supposed to give you guidance in respect to rules that are already in existence,” Pruitt noted, emphasizing that there’s a well-defined rulemaking process designed to ensure that all stakeholders’ voices are heard by regulators.
“We don’t have all the answers here, and when agencies make rules, they need to know how it impacts people in all the states across the country and they need to hear from those people and respond to those folks and say, ‘I hear you, and here’s how we’re going to address that and we think that’s an important point.’ That’s what rulemaking should be about,” he said.
Acknowledging that there’s a time and place for enforcement, and, if need be, prosecution, Pruitt emphasized that the agency will first approach states as allies, rather than adversaries.
“I really believe citizens care about the water they drink and the air they breathe. We need to believe that, trust that and restore that trust between this agency and the states,” he said.