The silver lining with Pruitt is that he’s incompetent

Susan Walsh at Politico says it’s a myth that Scott Pruitt has already trashed a lot of environmental laws and regulations. It’s true that he’s tried, but (hooray) it’s not that easy.

The truth is that Scott Pruitt has done a lot less to dismantle the EPA than he—or his critics—would have you believe.

It’s not for lack of trying. Pruitt has taken aim at just about every major Obama-era EPA rule, which has made him a pariah on the left, a hero on the right and the bureaucratic face of Trump’s vocal advocacy for fossil-fuel interests and other industrial polluters. But so far he’s only managed to delay a few rules that hadn’t yet taken effect. His supporters, critics and boss have all promoted the perception that he’s repealed Obama’s environmental legacy and shredded America’s environmental rulebook—and no one has promoted that perception more energetically than Pruitt, who frequently sued Obama’s EPA when he was Oklahoma’s attorney general. Nevertheless, that perception is wrong.

Pruitt’s problem is that major federal regulations are extremely difficult and time-consuming to enact, and just as difficult and time-consuming to reverse. The rulemaking process can take years of technical and administrative work that Pruitt and his team have not yet had time to do. And even if Pruitt manages to keep his job long enough to complete that process for any of his efforts to weaken clean-air and clean-water rules, the EPA will inevitably face years of litigation over each one.

Oh good. Let us know if we can help with any of that.

[T]he EPA rules that were in effect in 2016 are still the rules in 2018, despite Pruitt’s efforts to overturn them. He tried to impose a unilateral stay on an Obama rule regulating climate-warming methane emissions from oil and gas operations; a federal appeals court deemed the stay “unauthorized” and “unreasonable,” so the methane rule is now in force again. He tried a similar maneuver to suspend Obama’s restrictions on smog; after a group of state attorney generals sued, Pruitt reversed course, so those restrictions also remain in effect. Obama’s EPA had worked on both rules for years, engaging with stakeholders and the scientific community, creating a lengthy administrative record. Pruitt still hopes to rewrite them, but success would require the same kind of meticulous process.

Also, he’s widely reviled.

“The silver lining with Pruitt is that his incompetence has helped mobilize a backlash against his agenda,” says Jeremy Symons, the Environmental Defense Fund’s vice president for political affairs. “We’re very optimistic that most of what he’s started won’t get finished.”


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