In an agricultural community, there is a fine line to walk with regards to the land that provides recreation, employment, food and income for so many people.
At the 83rd annual Delta Council meeting Friday, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt explained his ideas on how to walk that line and what he sees as the future of the agency.
“As I lead the EPA today, we are trying to get back to a point of being focused on partnership as opposed to adversity with folks all over the country and really focusing on getting back to the basics of our mission and not trying to create things that aren’t there.
“I want to emphasize that the president has been about an America First strategy. It really emanates from remembering who we are and where we come from as a country. We as Americans have always understood that we can be about jobs and growth and environmental stewardship.
“We are making tremendous progress for our communities all over the country for air, land and water quality while also reducing regulatory burden on American business to save over a billion dollars,” said Pruitt.
Pruitt also explained how he sees the President’s America First strategy as it relates to his agency. “This America first strategy is a belief that is based on the principal that as America gets strong, the rest of the world is benefited. It’s not an isolationist approach or a selfish approach. What is says is that as we grow stronger economically, we can bless the rest of the world … by feeding the world and by powering the world. “America First is something that is driving the agenda of the President and driving the agenda of each of us that serve him in the cabinet. I want to unpack for you how that America First strategy is really translating at our agency.
“I will tell you that the future ain’t what it used to be with respect to how we are doing business,” said Pruitt referencing baseball great Yogi Berra. Pruitt went on to outline his plan for the continued development of the agency.
“What the EPA, and every executive branch agency, exists to do is enforce the law, not to legislate. What we have seen is an effort by the agency to take these statutes to and create rules that are untethered and inconsistent with the statute. We need to get back to basics and focus on rule of law,” Pruitt said.
Pruitt also address the numerous law suits that have been filed against the EPA by various groups. “For the last several years what we have seen happen, not just at the EPA but at other agencies in the federal government, is rule making through the courts. You have situations where someone would sue an agency and they would go into a courtroom and enter into a settlement and they would put it in a consent decree and say to the rest of the country, ‘this is what you are required to do’ and they would bypass rulemaking all together.
“That’s an example of abuse. Stakeholders all over the country and in the Delta of Mississippi did not have any opportunity to participate in the rule making process, so we ended that practice. You can’t have one size fits all. We can advance environmental objectives but do so in a way that is consistent with the needs, plans and objectives that take place on a state by state basis. You can have jobs and growth as well as good environmental outcomes,” said Pruitt.
While he admits these legal issues are important and can be difficult to navigate, Pruitt does not believe they are the most challenging issue facing the country from an environmental perspective.
“What I believe is the most challenging thing we face in terms of environmental issues today is an attitude that says true environmental protection is prohibition. I believe that is wrongheaded. I believe to who much is given, much is required. This country has been blessed beyond measure with significant natural resources. We should use the natural resources we have with a mindset towards future generations.” explained Pruitt. Of course Pruitt admits not everyone agrees with him. He acknowledged that “these are world views that clash.” However, he had a plan for that as well.
“These issues around the environment are consequential. They are about peoples’ health, they’re about the air and water quality. We care about those things as a country. We should be working together to achieve that through civil discourse not the kind of divisiveness that drive the agenda and the discussion in Washington at times. How we discuss true environmentalism and making sure that we engage in civil discussion is terribly important and I would encourage you in that regard. Pruitt closed with a quote from Alexander Hamilton on policy making in the United States.
“Hamilton said, ‘US policy should be about promoting the true and permanent interest of this country.’ That is happening at the EPA and various agencies across the government. Please know that as I depart, I will continue working with governor and stake holders in the Delta and folks across the country to advance this notion that we can be about jobs, growth, and environmental stewardship.”