Environmental_Protection_Agency_logoIn his opening statement at the Senate confirmation hearing for his appointment to the role of EPA Administrator, Scott Pruitt stated that he will build on progress “in promoting a healthier environment and stronger economy for future generations by focusing on three core philosophies: rule of law, cooperative federalism, and public participation.” Each of those philosophies would return EPA’s authority to its “core mission of protecting the American people through common sense and lawful regulations.”

With respect to the rule of law, Pruitt noted that EPA’s role is limited by statute and criticized the agency for instances where it “became dissatisfied with the tools Congress has given it to address certain issues, and bootstrapped its own powers and tools through rulemaking.” He pledged to ensure that EPA allows Congress to decide the proper policies for the nation, with EPA’s role as “not to end run Congress, but rather to implement its direction” without “picking winners and losers.” These statements undoubtedly refer to EPA’s regulations implementing the Clean Power Plan – regulations that Pruitt has filed suit to challenge in his capacity as Oklahoma Attorney General.

With respect to cooperative federalism, Pruitt states that he will “ensure that EPA returns to its proper role, rather than using a heavy hand to coerce the States into effectuating EPA policies.” His statement noting that Congress has directed EPA to use States’ expertise and resources to protect the environment suggests that States will be granted significantly greater leeway in determining how to implement environmental laws.

Finally, with respect to public participation, Pruitt states that he is committed to ensuring that EPA’s decisions “take into account the full range of views of the American people, including the economic consequences of any regulation.” He also states that it is not EPA’s mission “to be against sectors of industry in general, or against particular States.” This may signal a coming repeal of regulations in heavily-regulated industry sectors such as oil & gas and coal.

With Pruitt at its head, we can likely expect to see fewer regulations overall, as well as fewer regulations that impose environmental controls at the expense of economic development. But will we see less “protracted litigation, where the courts suspended most of these rules after years of delay,” as his statement suggests? While EPA’s regulations will likely face fewer challenges at the hand of industry, more lawsuits brought by environmental groups and private citizens seem probable – and the makeup of the courts will be significant in resolving those challenges.