The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee convened last Wednesday for the confirmation hearing of Oklahoma Attorney General, Scott Pruitt, for the top spot at EPA. The six-hour hearing featured a distinct duality that split down partisan lines. On the one hand, Democrats decried various ethical charges facing Pruitt during his tenure as state Attorney General. On the other, Republicans took the opportunity to lambast the EPA as an agency run amok with overreaching regulation.
In his opening remarks and initial questioning, Pruitt elucidated his guiding principles for leading the Agency as enhancing clarity in regulations and promoting cooperative federalism between the Federal Government and states. The subject of water quality protection came up in various forms throughout the hearing, most frequently in relation to the Flint water crisis and the controversial Waters of the U.S. bill, (WOTUS). When pressed on the EPA’s role in the Flint situation, Pruitt believed the agency could have responded more quickly, but noted that “water infrastructure is very important” moving forward.
Of interest to NACWA members, when asked about his support of the Chesapeake Bay TMDL by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), Pruitt conceded he will support the program, and commended the states for their efforts to set limits on point and nonpoint source pollution. Furthermore, Pruitt voiced his support of federal grantmaking programs, such as the State Revolving Funds and the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA), as “very important to states across this country.” Unfortunately, the topic of integrated planning was not addressed over the course of the hearing. NACWA will continue to monitor the confirmation process, as well as early actions within the new administration.