Editorial: Head of EPA bemoans ‘weaponization’ of his agency

EPA head Scott Pruitt tours a Nevada mine. (Elko Daily Free Press pix)

Under the Constitution the duty of the executive branch of the federal government is to enforce the laws enacted by Congress. Somewhere along the way some presidents and many of their appointed administrators of the various executive branches have lost sight of this distinction and usurped powers not accorded them.

Fortunately this trend appears to be on the decline. Take for example the recent words of Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt.

“We are housed in the Executive Branch, and your job is to enforce the law — the only authority I have is from Congress — largely what has happened with the past administration, they made it up,” Pruitt said in a recent press interview. “The fact that Congress is dysfunctional and is not updating the Clean Air Act or the Clean Water Act or all of these statutes that we administer, the fact that Congress isn’t doing that doesn’t mean EPA can say, ‘We’re going to do it in your place.’”

He went on to say his agency in the past had “weaponized” its rule making authority to pick and choose winners in the economy. “Weaponized in the sense of saying we are going to favor certain outcomes in the market with respect to energy and the environment — that’s not the role of a regulator,” Pruitt said.

A few days later the head of the EPA visited mining sites in Nevada and continued his rant about the weaponization of rules to prohibit economic activity rather than meet the congressional mandate to keep the air and water clean.

“The agency that I’ve been selected to lead, the last several years has been weaponized. It’s been weaponized against certain sectors of our economy, and yours was one of them,” the Elko newspaper quoted Pruitt as telling 300 miners during a visit to Coeur Mining’s Rochester mine near Lovelock. “Think about that for a second. An agency in Washington, D.C., weaponized against its own sectors of the economy across this country. That’s not the way it should work.”

He said his agency needs to get back to stewardship of the environment rather than issuing prohibitions against certain activity.

Pruitt went on say that his agency would be cooperative with the states in taking commonsense approaches that give the state leeway in making cost-effective decisions — a refreshing return to the concept of federalism.

“We recognized that you in Nevada recognize that you care about the air that you breath, the water you drink and how you take care of your land in the state,” the Elko paper quoted Pruitt as saying. “Having a rule that was punitive, weaponized against the mining sector, was not a reason to have the rule, so we stopped the rule.”

Pruitt’s approach to looking at the facts and the law instead of vague presumptions based on unproven theories is sending the climate change acolytes into paroxysms of apoplexy.

In that earlier interview, he was quoted as saying, “There are things we know and things we don’t know. I think it’s pretty arrogant for people in 2018 to say, ‘We know what the ideal surface temperature should be in the year 2100,’” adding that the debate about proper carbon dioxide levels is important but not the most pressing matter in the near future.

We appreciate and applaud the commonsense and constitutional approach enunciated by this member of the executive branch. It is good for the economy, the environment and the country.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.

Pruitt ends another costly Obama era EPA practice

It’s about damned time.

EPA administration Scott Pruitt said today his agency is ending the practice that has come to be known as “sue and settle” — in which self-styled environmental sue the government over some feigned failure to protect something or stop some viable economic activity and the government caves without putting up a fight.

“We will no longer go behind closed doors and use consent decrees and settlement agreements to resolve lawsuits filed against the Agency by special interest groups where doing so would circumvent the regulatory process set forth by Congress,” Pruitt said in a statement.

Scott Pruitt, head of EPA

As the attorney general of Oklahoma, Pruitt was involved in many such lawsuits.

Pruitt said that when a settlement is being considered the EPA will discuss the matter with affected states and communities.

 

Back in 2014 we lamented the “sue and settle” practices of the Obama administration.

The previous fall, the the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated as threatened — under the terms of the Endangered Species Act — the bi-state greater sage grouse found along the northern California-Nevada border, supposedly a distinct population segment of about 5,000 remaining birds, even though the birds are legally hunted in both states.

That decision followed an October 2010 lawsuit filed by the Western Watersheds Project challenging grazing permits granted by the Bureau of Land Management.

In the spring of 2014 the FWS designated as threatened the lesser prairie chicken, which are found in Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado and New Mexico and Kansas.

Wild Earth Guardians sued the FWS in 2010 demanding rapid action on the listing status of 251 species. FWS caved.

A Mono Basin bi-state sage grouse

Under the settlement, FWS was also to decide whether to list the greater sage grouse, which are found in 11 Western states, by September 2015. What do you think the odds are? Fortunately, that never happened, though the Obama administration issued a massive and draconian set of land use plans meant to protect the chicken-sized birds. Recently, Pruitt’s EPA rescinded those plans

Many of the causes of Western species decline have nothing to due with farming, ranching, oil and gas exploration or recreation, but with incompetent land management by the federal agencies, which have ignored fuel management practices and allowed vast wildfires to ravage the ranges. Additionally, there a lack of predator control, one of the biggest problems for most of the species in question, but a factor ignored by the feds.

 

During the four decades of the Endangered Species Act less than 2 percent of listed species have been delisted. Once on the list they are on the list forever.

Pruitt appears to be correcting many of the errors of his predecessor.

 

 

Editorial: Return authority over intrastate water to the states

The Environmental Protection Agency announced this past week that it is moving to rescind the Obama administration’s 2015 rules that defined the “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) under the Clean Water Act of 1972 as every stream, ditch, wetland or mud puddle that might eventually after a deluge spill a few drops into any rivulet that might occasionally be navigable with an inner tube.

As the courts have noted, the Clean Water Act was intended to give the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers and other federal agencies authority over “navigable waters” only.

President Trump signed an order in February instructing the EPA to consider repeal and replacement of Obama’s EPA water rules.

Now the EPA is beginning the process of rewriting the rules, hopefully to take into account the role and authority of the states over intrastate water resources.

“We are taking significant action to return power to the states and provide regulatory certainty to our nation’s farmers and businesses,” said EPA administrator Scott Pruitt in a press release. “This is the first step in the two-step process to redefine ‘waters of the U.S.’ and we are committed to moving through this re-evaluation to quickly provide regulatory certainty, in a way that is thoughtful, transparent and collaborative with other agencies and the public.”

As it now stands with this order and several court rulings, including one from the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, the EPA is enforcing clean water rules that were in place prior to the 2015 attempted usurpation of power.

Pruitt would do well to lift heavily from a June 19 letter to him from the attorneys general of 20 states, including Nevada’s AG Adam Laxalt, which offers suggestions on how to include input from the states and retain state jurisdiction over intrastate waters.

Laxalt was one of 23 attorneys general who backed a lawsuit that went all the way to the Supreme Court and resulted in the court saying property owners have a right to sue in court over EPA permitting determinations under WOTUS rules. The federal agencies had circuitously contended that property owners could only go to court once decisions were final, but essentially argued that all permitting decisions are reviewable and potentially reversible and therefore never final.

The attorneys general letter notes the burden the Obama era rules were on land owners, because the discharge of any pollutant — be it mere soil, rocks or sand — required obtaining a permit that is excessively expensive and takes years to obtain.

In that Supreme Court case Chief Justice John Roberts noted that a specialized individual permit, such as the one sought by the plaintiffs, on average costs $271,596 and 788 days to complete, not counting any mitigation costs that might be required.

Further, discharging into “waters of the United States” without a permit can subject a farmer or private homeowner to fines of up to $51,570 per violation, per day.

The attorneys general noted that the Obama water rules violated the Constitution by intruding on the states’ reserved authority under the 10th Amendment and usurped Congress’s authority under the Commerce Clause. They called for an approach that would allow the states the flexibility to design state law in order to protect the water resources within their borders. “It also would provide any state for which EPA attempts to designate certain waters an opportunity to explain to EPA why its regulatory program is sufficient to protect those waters and contest EPA’s determination that those waters significantly affect navigable waters,” they wrote.

It is time to return those 10th Amendment rights to the states.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.

Greens are turning red over these Trump nominees

Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson nominated for secretary of State. (Reuters pix)

Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson nominated for secretary of State. (Reuters pix)

Now, I’m no fan of braggart-in-chief Donald Trump, but you’ve got to love three of his cabinet choices, if for no other reason than they are making the green acolytes turn red with rage.

Today Trump named Texas oilman and Exxon Mobil Corp. CEO Rex Tillerson to become secretary of State and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry to head the Department Energy. Add these to the nomination of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency and you can see why the climate change Chicken Littles are running around like their heads have been cut off.

Rick Perry nominated to head Energy Department. (Getty pix)

Rick Perry nominated to head Energy Department. (Getty pix)

The grease orchard cartel is sure to be angrily opposed by those who have been getting rich on renewable energy subsidies and their Democratic Party allies in Congress.

Though there has been considerable angst about Tillerson’s ties to Russia’s Vladimir Putin, you can count on the greens to thump him on allegations that Exxon has concealed its research on climate change, despite the fact Exxon has bought into the Paris climate deal.

“At a time when the climate crisis is deepening, both the United States and the world deserve much better than having one of the planet’s top fossil fuel tycoons run U.S. foreign policy,” Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune bellowed in a statement challenging the appointment. “We urge senators, who are elected to represent and protect the American people, to stand up for families across the country and the world and oppose this nomination.”

With Perry named to head a department he once proposed be eliminated, the greens will be gunning for him since he has long been a climate change denier.

Scott Pruitt nominated to head EPA. (KFOR pix)

Scott Pruitt nominated to head EPA. (KFOR pix)

Brune said the designation of Perry to head Energy is “an insult to our functioning democracy. Putting Perry in charge of the Department of Energy is the perfect way to ensure the agency fails at everything it is charged to do.” The Energy Department was created by Jimmy Carter following the oil embargo in the early 1970s. The U.S., due to fracking, is no longer relying on Middle Eastern oil.

Pruitt over the years has challenged the EPA’s regulatory overreach repeatedly, often joining with other states, including Nevada, to file lawsuits.

Pruitt said in a statement released following his nomination that Americans “are tired of seeing billions of dollars drained from our economy due to unnecessary EPA regulations, and I intend to run this agency in a way that fosters both responsible protection of the environment and freedom for American businesses.”

The folks at the Sierra Club call him a puppet of polluters and that his appointment is like “putting an arsonist in charge of fighting fires.”

Can anyone remember this much ink being spilled over provious cabinet appointees? Trump might not be draining the swamp but he is sure stirring the waters.