EPA Administrator Addresses Staff, Focuses on Regulatory Consistency and Role of States
New EPA Administrator, Scott Pruitt, addressed EPA staff for the first time on February 21. Pruitt’s remarks were consistent with the themes that have already been heard from the Trump Administration, but did not get into any specifics in terms of policy actions or structural changes to the Agency.During his address, which was broadcast via video and is now available online, Pruitt thanked Agency staff for their commitment, noting that the staff he had met so far clearly enjoy their work and are committed to the agency’s mission. His speech focused on what he said will become the core principles of his tenure: being a problem solver, acting with civility and being a good listener. Recalling the story of Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison coming together over dinner to address the appropriate role of the Federal Government in paying off the debts incurred by the states during the Revolutionary War, Pruitt noted that these three leaders put aside their differences and came together to come up with a solution that worked for everyone.
As he detailed his vision for EPA, Pruitt noted that “process matters,” and that “regulators exist to give certainty” to the regulated community so they can plan and dedicate the necessary resources. Pruitt stressed that process means avoiding regulation through guidance and through litigation or consent decree. Pruitt also stressed the importance of the “rule of law,” noting that an agency’s actions must be tethered to its enabling statute to avoid litigation. Finally, Pruitt stressed that “federalism matters” and that the states play a very important role. While Pruitt noted that the regional offices play an important role in engaging with the states, he also underscored that the states must see EPA as a partner, not an adversary. NACWA sent Pruitt a letter congratulating him on his confirmation, and is working to set up a meeting to discuss the Association’s priority issues.