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Mon Jun 19, 2017, 04:43 AM

The radical idea behind Trumps EPA rollbacks





The radical idea behind Trump’s EPA rollbacks


'EPA originalist' Scott Pruitt says he's returning the agency to its proper mission and legal powers. But even some of his Republican predecessors say he's got it wrong.

By Alex Guillén

06/18/2017 07:13 AM EDT
Scott Pruitt is pictured. | AP Photo

Several former EPA chiefs say Scott Pruitt and President Donald Trump have it wrong. | Getty

http://www.politico.com/story/2017/06/18/pruitts-predecessors-pan-epa-originalism-philosophy-239669


The Trump administration isn’t just pushing to dramatically shrink the Environmental Protection Agency, chop a third of its budget and hobble its regulatory powers. It’s also trying to permanently limit the EPA’s mission — while portraying doing so as a return to the agency's roots.

What Administrator Scott Pruitt calls his “Back to Basics” agenda would refocus the agency on narrow goals such as cleaning up toxic waste and providing safe drinking water — the kinds of issues that inspired the EPA’s creation in 1970 amid a public outcry about burning rivers and smog-filled skies. But it would abandon the Obama administration’s climate regulations, along with other efforts that Pruitt argues exceed the agency’s legal authority.

President Donald Trump has endorsed this notion as well, promising that the U.S. will have “the cleanest air” and “the cleanest water” even in his speech this month repudiating the Paris climate agreement.

Pruitt has labeled this vision “EPA originalism,” in a nod to some conservatives’ long-running arguments that judges should interpret the Constitution as the Founders understood it. But several former EPA chiefs say Pruitt and Trump have it wrong — and that the agency’s mission was never as narrow as the current administration wants it to be.

“I don’t personally think you can say, ‘I’m somehow going back to what the basic responsibilities of EPA are,’” said Lee Thomas, who led the agency during Ronald Reagan’s second term. “That’s not what EPA is, that’s not where the laws are, and that’s not where the risk is.”
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Christine Todd Whitman, George W. Bush’s first EPA administrator, disputes Pruitt’s decision to focus on a limited set of EPA programs, such as the toxic-waste cleanups it carries out under the 1980 Superfund law.

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