By Zack Duvall
Scott Pruitt made his first statements to Environmental Protection Agency employees as head of the agency Tuesday. In a 12-minute long address given at the EPA’s headquarters, Pruitt outlined his goal for the agency, one he says can be very “pro-job”.
“I believe that we as an agency , and we as a nation, can be both pro-energy and jobs, and pro-environment.” Pruitt told reporters and agency employees. He continued on to say that the country wouldn’t have “to choose between the two.”
Pruitt’s statements come as good news to many in the energy sector, who see his comments as foreshadowing a major roll back of regulations the Obama administration put in place during the last 8 years.
The comments and enthusiasm in the sector also come in the midst of reports that the Trump administration is planning to issue several executive orders in regards to the energy industry. The orders expected from the President, according to The Washington Post,include the easing of greenhouse gas emissions curbs on electric utilities and a lift on the ban of coal mining and oil drilling on much of America’s federal land.
The anticipated Trump administration executive orders associated with these restrictions alone would create thousands of jobs.
Pruitt’s nomination and appointment, however, have not been without significant Democrat and environmentalist push back. During Pruitt’s nomination process, a letter drafted by over 800 former EPA employees was sent to members of the Senate urging them to reject Pruitt’s appointment. A protest at an agency office on Monday in Chicago was also staged by roughly 30 current employees, the protest was supported by the environmental group, the Sierra Club.
Many of Pruitt’s critics are citing what they say are questionable ties to the oil industry, particularly in his home state of Oklahoma and the fact that, as attorney general of Oklahoma, he sued the EPA over 12 times in order to fight against Federal regulations that were being rolled out under the Obama administration.
In an apparent attempt to ease concerns of agency employees and environmental activists alike, worried Pruitt and the Trump administration are a complete reversal in America’s energy policy and stance on climate change, Pruitt reassured critics that he would “listen, learn, and lead” and that he “valued the input and opinions of career staff.”
However, concerns over Pruitt’s ties to the oil industry in his home state are likely to persist for the near future at least.
Last week, a judge in Oklahoma ordered that Pruitt turn over all of his e-mail correspondence between his office and energy companies operating within his state by Tuesday. This comes as a result of a lawsuit filed by the Center for Media and Democracy over their release.
The judge in that case is expected to review the e-mails for relevance before releasing them to the group.
Despite the backlash and apprehension from critics some within the agency and the union representing its employees are holding out hope all sides will work together moving forward.
“One would hope that the administrator would learn about what we do and would then not treat as lightly the EPA’s mission and accomplishments, and what it is required to do under the statutes,” Nicole Cantello, a representative of the union that represents EPA workers said.
The American Petroleum Institute, an industry group, said it looked forward to working with Pruitt as he takes on the role of the agency’s leader.