What Trump's Nominee For EPA Could Mean For Massachusetts

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President-elect Donald Trump has nominated Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt for administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt is pictured on March 10, 2016. (Sue Ogrocki/AP)
President-elect Donald Trump has nominated Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt for administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt is pictured on March 10, 2016. (Sue Ogrocki/AP)

Part of our series examining President-elect Donald Trump's cabinet nominees, and what his picks might mean for Massachusetts.

Today, the Environmental Protection Agency. Trump is nominating Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to lead the EPA. Pruitt's official biography on the Oklahoma AG's website says he is "a leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda."

Testifying before Congress last year, in opposition to the EPA's Clean Power Plan, Pruitt said the EPA treats states "like a vessel of federal will." He went on to say:

"I'm not one who believes the EPA has no role. The agency has played a very important role historically in addressing water and air quality issues that traverses state lines. However, with this rule, the agency is now being used to pick winners and losers in the energy market by elevating renewable power at the expense of the fossil fuel generation. No state should comply with the clean power plan if it means surrendering decision-making authority to the EPA, a power that has not been granted to it by this Congress."


Doug Foy, founder of the clean tech company Serrafix. He's also former president of the Conservation Law Foundation and former secretary of Commonwealth Development in the Romney administration.

Interview Highlights

On Why The Federal Post Matters, Compared To The Local Post

"It matters in that some of the major issues that [the Environmental Protection Agency] deals with are of national scope. For instance, air pollution that's transported into Massachusetts from upwind states, if you think back to the days when we had acid rain problems, EPA is a critical piece of trying to regulate that and bring that into control.

"On the other hand there's no doubt that Massachusetts has a lot of firepower to protect itself on all manner of environmental issues — air, water, toxins, solid waste — a lot of the federal programs have in fact been delegated for implementation to Massachusetts. The good news is Massachusetts has a lot of power and a lot of ability to protect itself. The troublesome news is to the degree that EPA is weakened or gutted, that will have implications for Massachusetts."

On How Pruitt Might Change EPA

"I think it's too soon to tell. As with any of the President-elect's nominees, we ought to give him the benefit of the doubt and hope for the best. A lot of his statements are very worrisome. He seems to be a climate change denier, questioning whether there even is climate change when all the science is clearly indicating it's a serious, almost existential problem.

"He's certainly indicated he opposes a lot of EPA's exercise of its authority, so that is worrisome. And I think we'll have to hope for the best and prepare for the worst if need be."

On What Pruitt's Beliefs About Climate Change Could Do To The EPA

"A variety of things could be done if you wanted to try to weaken EPA. You could cut research that is directed at some of these issues relating to climate change. You certainly could stop using the bully pulpit which EPA has been extremely important to, in terms of bringing public awareness to the threats that climate change brings.

"The irony in Scott Pruitt's case is that states like Oklahoma are gonna be disproportionately harmed by the effects of climate change. You're talking about dust bowl droughts for Oklahoma if we don't start dealing with these threats and so it would be sadly ironic if he was in part responsible for not addressing that issue.

"On the other hand, there's no doubt that the states are out in front on this anyway — California, Massachusetts, New York, Minnesota, Colorado — there're states all over the country that are actively addressing climate change issues, preparing for its impact, trying to mitigate its effects. That's not gonna change."

On States Taking The Lead On Environmental Laws

"There's no doubt that a state has the authority to be tougher. And we always have taken that opportunity in Massachusetts and other states do the same thing. The federal laws — the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, the toxic regulation — often set a floor, sort of a minimum standard that all the nation is supposed to comply with.

"States can be tougher than that and indeed have been tougher than that and Massachusetts is notable for being much more aggressive in protecting its environmental resources. And that will continue and I'm sure if anything, might accelerate to the degree that federal government starts to back away from its responsibility. And the state will also have to pick up some of the enforcement responsibilities that would've otherwise been taken on by EPA.

"It's worth keeping in mind that most of the federal environmental laws -- Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, Hazardous Waste And Toxins legislation -- are and were bipartisan legislative efforts. They were often adopted in Republican presidential administrations.

"I think the public is overwhelmingly in favor of clean water, clean air, rivers that don't catch fire, harbors that are clean, safe, can swim in the water and boat in the water. We're not gonna change as a public set of concerns. And to the degree that EPA gets weakened, I expect and would hope that many powers will rise up to resist a reversal on environmental protection.

"I think there's certainly gonna be litigation. The state — the attorney general in Massachusetts, the state agencies, the advocacy groups, Conservation law Foundation that I used to head, a bunch of others — are certainly gonna enforce the laws. I would be astounded if this Congress chose to either repeal or weaken the major federal laws that protect the environment. The public would be outraged by that."

On Industry And Environmental Regulation

"... Industry wants consistent environmental regulation and they want it applied evenhandedly. The good companies are trying to not be polluters. And they don't want to have competitors get away with polluting.

"So there was an enormous uprising, up-welling of complaint as EPA started to weaken in the [Anne Gorsuch Burford] era from industries, because two things happened: One, the bad guys started getting away with doing bad things and that really was not anti-competitive, and also the states stepped up and you started to get a multitude of regulatory burdens on industry, rather than single clear standard."

"... If you're the auto industry, you do not wanna have to produce 50 different version of a Ford Fusion because you have 50 different states regulating air quality issues."

This segment aired on December 8, 2016.


Kathleen McNerney Senior Producer / Editor, Edify
Kathleen McNerney was the senior producer/editor of Edify.


Meghna Chakrabarti Host, On Point
Meghna Chakrabarti is the host of On Point.



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