The Transition to a New EPA and AGC’s Priorities
President-elect Donald Trump has picked Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). His supporters are praising the decision, but environmental groups and prominent Democratic Party leaders have reacted differently.
Trump’s transition team called Pruitt “an expert in Constitutional law [with] a deep understanding of the impact of regulations on both the environment and the economy.” Pruitt has tweeted his concerns about an “anti-energy agenda that has destroyed millions of jobs.” His background signals that he would focus on putting more power in the hands of the states, while limiting the overreach of the federal government on key environmental priorities.
Of interest to AGC, Pruitt brought or led state challenges to a host of EPA rules, including ongoing litigation over the “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule, the power plant greenhouse gas rules, and federal air quality standards for ozone. He has also criticized EPA’s use of “sue and settle” tactics and questioned climate change science.
Pruitt must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate before he can take office. In the absence of a confirmed EPA Administrator on Jan. 20, 2017, Inauguration Day, the new Administration can appoint someone to temporarily serve or follow EPA’s “Order of Succession.” Additional political appointments will happen after the new Administrator. EPA has 79 political appointees. Of these, 14 positions require presidential appointment and Senate confirmation (e.g., Assistant Administrators).
EPA has designated Shannon Kenny, principal deputy associate administrator for the Office of Policy, as its senior career employee to oversee EPA’s transition. AGC worked closely with Kenny from mid-2003 through 2008 when the Association served as the construction industry partner in EPA’s Sector Strategies Program. In early 2009, when President Obama took office, EPA ended that partnership and all other industry-recognition/award programs. AGC plans to reach out to Kenny in the New Year.
AGC also has a strong and longstanding working relationship with the career leaders who will likely serve acting roles until new appointed leaders are in place. If the past serves as a guide, it will be at least summer 2017 until EPA has its new leadership team assembled. AGC is already strategizing possible opportunities for a new path forward, with initial plans to focus on the following much-needed environmental reforms:
- Curtail the public’s ease of access to company-specific compliance and enforcement-related data that fuels citizen suits.
- Bring back cooperative Industry-Agency partnership and recognition programs that encourage prompt discover/correction of environmental problems and lead to enhanced environmental performance.
- Stop the federal government’s regulatory overreach of water and other environmental resources. A glaring example is EPA’s and Corps’ land- and water-grab through the “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule. An overbroad application of laws spanning from the Clean Water Act’s permitting programs to the Endangered Species Act tramples property rights and poses obstacles to meeting our nation’s dire infrastructure needs.
For more information, please contact Leah Pilconis, AGC’s senior environmental advisor, at email@example.com.
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