New EPA chief Pruitt says agency will respect rule of law, states’ rights

Pruitt addresses EPA staff

He didn’t delve into policy specifics nor did he mention his predecessors by name, but new Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt on Tuesday told federal employees that under his leadership the agency once again will adhere to the rule of law and will respect states’ rights.

In a speech to EPA workers in Washington, Mr. Pruitt — the former attorney general of Oklahoma who often clashed with the agency in court as he challenged former President Obama’s climate-change agenda — said federal environmental; regulations often have been unnecessarily cumbersome and expensive, and have created confusion rather than clarity.

“Regulations ought to make things regular. Regulators exist to give certainty to those they regulate,” he said. “I seek to ensure that we engender the trust of those at the state level, that those at the state level see us as partners … and not as adversaries.”

Mr. Pruitt was confirmed last week by a Senate vote of 52 to 46, drawing the support of two Democrats — Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota. Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine voted against him, saying she believes he’s unfit to lead the agency.

His address comes the same day the Oklahoma attorney general’s office is set to release nearly 3,000 emails containing communications between Mr. Pruitt and oil-and-gas companies. Democrats believe those documents will show clear collusion between the new EPA chief and the fossil fuels sector, though their concerns were not enough to delay last Friday’s vote.

Mr. Pruitt has defended his close relationship with oil-and-gas firms while Oklahoma attorney general, saying it was his duty to defend his state’s industries against unfair or unlawful regulations.

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