Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, pending confirmation, will soon hold one of the most vital posts in President-Elect Donald Trump’s administration to restoring job growth in much of the nation.
Pruitt, nominated to head the Environmental Protection Agency, will be the focus of intense criticism from Democrats during his confirmation hearings.
“There has to be attention to the plain language of the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act. [The Obama administration] imagined authority that they had, that they did not have.”
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Democrats are so agitated by Republicans, and a pro-energy Republican like Pruitt, taking the helm of the EPA because the Obama administration’s entire legacy of radical environmentalist activism will be on the chopping block.
Critics contend President Obama’s overly aggressive EPA chief, Gina McCarthy, and Interior Department, shifted the entire landscape of the energy industry with excessive rule-making.
Trump has picked U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.), to be the next interior secretary.
But it’s Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general, who caught the attention of the Left. Pruitt is suing the federal government, on behalf of his state, over President Obama’s controversial Clean Power Plan.
The regulation was transparently designed to kill the future of coal plants, says Marlo Lewis, a senior fellow in energy and environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
Pruitt was very aggressive at fighting the federal government. When he took office in 2010, he founded a “Federalism Unit” in his office to fight unwarranted or unconstitutional federal regulations.
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There is a large swath of possible job-killing regulations that the EPA and Interior have passed under President Obama — regulations that Trump, Pruitt, and Zinke could possibly revoke their first day or week in office.
The Stained Glass Sector
You may be surprised to learn stained glass is a threat to the environment.
Makers of specialty glass, such as stained glass, are not subject to clean-air emission rules because the facilities tend to be too small.
But the EPA decided to change that, according to the conservative research organization America Rising Squared. The EPA began sending out burdensome information requests to glass makers.
The requests cost many glass companies countless man-hours and tens of thousands of dollars to comply. When Spectrum Glass Co. closed in May 2016, after 40 years in business, the Washington State company cited the EPA’s rules as the secondary factor, after problems caused by the Great Recession.
“The entire U.S. art glass industry is now being evaluated by the Environmental Protection Agency with respect to potential new regulations,” wrote Craig Barker, CEO of Spectrum. “Long-standing interpretations of air quality regulations are being re-evaluated, and if new regulations were applied to our facility, it would require substantial capital expenses.”
The Powder River Basin
Luke Popovich, the vice president for external communications for the National Mining Association, says the industry would like to see Trump, Pruitt, and Zinke address other “low-hanging fruit” soon.
One easy fix that wouldn’t need congressional approval would be the lifting of a three-year moratorium on new coal-mining leases in the Powder River Basin, in southeast Montana and northeast Wyoming.
The Obama administration imposed a three-year ban on public lands in January 2016, pending further study. 90 percent of U.S. coal extracted from public lands comes from this basin.
The Stream Buffer Rule
Congress is already considering revocation of an Obama rule that was announced on Dec. 19. The rule expands the definition of what constitutes an ephemeral stream in order to subject more surface coal mines to stream protection rules.
Industry analysis has indicated the blanket expansion could essentially allow regulators to shutter almost any mine due to running water caused by rain.
Popovich said Congress may have power to review this rule under the Congressional Review Act.
Popovich said the rule is a wrongful expansion of Interior’s power.
The Clean Power Plan
The coal-killing plan was aimed at coal power plants. But it may be up to federal courts to revoke the rule before Trump is sworn in.
If it’s revoked by the courts, Trump is likely not to appeal. If it is, Trump’s attorney general will likely appeal to the Supreme Court, says Popovich. The plan is devious, as a new president cannot simply kill it. It may take an act of Congress to adjust it.
In the end, Popovich said he would like Trump, Pruitt, and Zinke to follow the text of the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act.
“There has to be attention to the plain language of the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act,” said Popovich. “And to stay within its bounds.”
The Obama administration took the laws and “imagined authority that they had, that they did not have,” Popovich said.
Energy industry leaders say there is little cause for alarmism about their deregulation plans.
On Wednesday, the American Petroleum Institute noted that the federal government reported the first six months of 2016 saw carbon emissions from electricity generation at their lowest point in 25 years, even as electricity demand continues to rise.