President-elect Trump's nominee to lead the Environmental Protection Agency is vowing to change the agency from one that strong arms states and ignores Congress into one that is more collaborative and listens to lawmakers, according to a copy of prepared remarks issued before his Senate confirmation hearing Wednesday morning.
"If given the opportunity to serve as administrator, I will work to ensure that EPA has a cooperative and collaborative relationship with Congress in fulfilling its intent," Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt will say in prepared remarks he will deliver to the Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee.
The remarks paint a picture of an EPA under the Obama administration that has strayed from the original intent of Congress. He said it will be his goal to return the agency to its proper place under the law.
"As attorney general of Oklahoma, I saw examples where the agency became dissatisfied with the tools Congress has given it to address certain issues, and bootstrapped its own powers and tools through rulemaking," Pruitt will say.
"This, unfortunately, has resulted only in protracted litigation, where the courts suspended most of these rules after years of delay," he will add. "In the meantime, we lost the opportunity for true environmental protection as a nation. This is not the right approach."
Pruitt will face intense opposition from the environment committee's Democrats, led by ranking member Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del. Protests have been underway in Washington since last week opposing Pruitt's nomination. Security is expected to be intense to keep protesters from interrupting or delaying the confirmation hearing.
Carper had tried to stall the hearing until all Democrats' questions about Pruitt's intent as EPA administrator were answered. Carper and others fear Pruitt's opposition to the Obama administration's climate rules will mean the EPA will roll back all action on addressing the issue despite the scientific record that shows manmade emissions from the burning of fossil fuels are contributing to a rise in the Earth's temperature.
Pruitt does not mention climate change once in his prepared testimony. But he alludes to the EPA's Clean Power Plan, which he and 28 other state attorneys general opposed in litigation being reviewed in federal appeals court.
The state attorneys general argue that the EPA does not have the authority under the Clean Air Act to implement the plan, which directs states to cut their carbon emissions a third by 2030. They also say it is unconstitutional.
"The agency must be committed to using its expertise in environmental issues not to end run Congress, but rather to implement its direction, so that Congress may decide the proper policies for our nation, and the EPA can go about the business of enacting effective regulations that survive legal scrutiny," he will say.
"The purpose of regulation is to make things regular, to put the public on clear notice of its obligations, and to do so fairly, without picking winners and losers. I look forward to working with each of you to accomplish this goal."
As EPA administrator, his second priority will be to rebuild relationships with states through "cooperative federalism."
"Congress has wisely and appropriately directed the EPA through our environmental statutes to utilize the expertise and resources of the states to better protect the environment, and for the states to remain our nation's frontline environmental implementers and enforcers," Pruitt will say in the prepared remarks.
"If we truly want to advance and achieve cleaner air and water, the states must be partners and not mere passive instruments of federal will," he added. "If confirmed, I will utilize the relationships I have forged with my counterparts in the states to ensure that EPA returns to its proper role, rather than using a heavy hand to coerce the states into effectuating EPA policies."
He will say he also would place increased importance on the economic impact of regulations.
"Environmental regulations should not occur in an economic vacuum," he will say. "We can simultaneously pursue the mutual goals of environmental protection and economic growth."
That can only happen "if EPA listens to the views of all interested stakeholders, including the states, so that it can determine how to realize its mission while considering the pragmatic impacts of its decisions on jobs, communities, and most importantly, families," Pruitt will say.
"It is, after all, EPA's core mission to protect people," he will say. "It is not EPA's mission to be against sectors of industry in general, or against particular states. My first and primary goal as administrator will be to return the agency to that core mission of protecting the American people through common sense and lawful regulations."