The first-ever Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator reluctantly admitted the agency he headed under both the Nixon and Reagan administrations has gotten out of control in recent years.
“I almost hate to say yes, because it will skew what I’m about to say. But the answer is yes,” Bill Ruckelshaus, the first and fifth EPA administrator, told KNKX Thursday when asked if the agency had gotten “out of control and run amok.”
“When we started EPA we had 2,000 people, in 1970. We now have 15,000,” Ruckelshaus said.
Ruckelshaus said “the EPA was a victim of its own success,” KNKX reported, adding the former administrator “was called back in during the Reagan administration to fix it.”
Ruckelshaus is no EPA foe, however, and said the agency was a necessary check on state efforts to promote industry.
“States are not good regulators of industry because they compete so strongly for industry to locate within their borders,” Ruckelshaus said. “And because of that, EPA was formed.”
“People forget what the environment looked like 40 years ago, when we started all this stuff,” he said. “You look at the front page of the New York Times about once a month, where they put Beijing and see how those people are suffering. Well, the same thing was happening here.”
EPA critics today argue the agency has moved far beyond its original purpose and, instead, is hurting the economy. EPA finalized more than $344 billion worth of regulations during the Obama administration.
President Donald Trump promised to scale back EPA’s rule book, pushing to cut the agency’s budget 31 percent and reduce its workforce by 20 percent. Democrats and environmentalists oppose these cuts.
Ruckelshaus is most remembered for banning DDT, the chemical used to exterminate mosquitoes and fight malaria. He argued at the time DDT harmed birds and could cause cancer in humans — despite a lengthy public investigation that determined otherwise.
The 1972 decision to ban DDT, forced U.S. foreign aid agencies to convince to poor countries to stop using the disease-stopping substance.