Changes Headed To EPA At National And Regional Levels

Dec 9, 2016

This week’s news that President-elect Donald Trump would appoint Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency drew sharp condemnation from environmental organizations and political opponents.

The National Audubon Society called Pruitt “anti-EPA”. As Attorney General for oil and gas-rich Oklahoma, Pruitt has sued the EPA and criticized the agency for what he calls “unnecessary regulations.”

The Sierra Club calls Pruitt, who has questioned man-made climate change, “unfit” to lead the EPA.

In New York, Hudson Valley Democratic Congresswoman Nita Lowey, ranking member on the House Appropriations Committee, said Trump’s appointment “is as egregious as it is reckless.”

State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said New York will fight with a coalition of states to defend President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which is designed to prevent global warming by controlling greenhouse gas emissions. Schneiderman said, “If the EPA under Scott Pruitt fails to uphold our nation’s environmental laws, I stand ready to use the full power of my office to compel their enforcement by the agency.”

Paul Gallay, President of Riverkeeper, said Pruitt has “no business” being head of the EPA.

“He’s not interested in the very basic principles upon which EPA operates, which people depend on day-to-day for cleanup of their air and water, hazardous sites, and maintaining a safe climate. There’s no reason Congress should approve Scott Pruitt,” said Gallay.

Gallay added that while fossil fuel industries may benefit under Pruitt, businesses depend on stable regulations for clean air and water. He said businesses are encouraged by investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency.

John Conrad, a hydro geologist and self-proclaimed “enthusiastic proponent” of hydrofracking, said his main concern is the EPA’s future enforcement of environmental regulations.

“The United States has made a lot of progress since the 1970s in coming up with really effective regulations to improve the quality of our land and our water, for example. And one of the things that makes those regulations work is enforcement of those regs. And so one question would be ‘Will the EPA continue to adequately enforce the regulations that are already on the books in future years,’” said Conrad.

With Pruitt, pending approval from Congress, stepping in at the EPA, there will also be changes at the regional level. Regional Administrators are appointed positions and it’s likely new individuals will be chosen for those roles.

For the past several years, Riverkeeper has worked with Region 2 Administrator Judith Enck, who is likely to be replaced in January. EPA Region 2 has overseen General Electric’s cleanup of the Hudson River Superfund site to remove toxic PCBs.

“We didn’t always agree with Judith Enck, but we always knew where she stood and why. And we always could count on her commitment to enforcing the nation’s environmental laws as they’re written. One thing you could count on from this EPA was a straight shot,” said Gallay.

Former New York Republican Congresswoman Nan Hayworth, who sits on the board of the conservative environmentally-focused organization ConservAmerica, reportedly likened Pruitt to President Theodore Roosevelt, a known conservationist.