Politics & Policy

Setting the Record Straight on Scott Pruitt

(Photo: Gage Skidmore)
Trump’s nominee to head the EPA will protect the environment, not out-of-control bureaucrats.

The ink had not dried on Scott Pruitt’s nomination to head the EPA before many in the media labeled him a “climate denier.” Like most cases of slander, this one rested on the flimsiest of reeds — lines from an op-ed I co-authored with Attorney General Pruitt and published in May at National Review Online under the title “The Climate-Change Gang.” The column is still available for all to read and should speak for itself, but some attacks should not go unrebutted. So let’s set the record straight.

Our column wasn’t about climate change itself or even public policies that purport to address it. It was about an effort by some irresponsible state attorneys general to prosecute as fraud public disagreement about climate change. This effort to turn the prosecutorial powers of the state against political opponents is un-American and should be opposed at every turn. Scott Pruitt had the courage to stand up for our First Amendment rights, and for that, he has now become a target of groups who will press their radical climate-change agenda at any cost.

Responsible leaders must stand united against this effort. Debate about the causes and consequences of climate change and the policy positions taken in response to it should be encouraged, not silenced.

Climate change is not an excuse to silence political speech. Climate change is not an excuse for the EPA to ignore the bounds of law and issue illegal regulations that will cost jobs, shutter industries, and have little to no positive impact on the environment. Climate change is not an excuse for imposing one-size-fits-all regulations on the states, or for ignoring the unique concerns of citizens, businesses, and political leaders. Climate change is not an excuse to give the federal government ever more power over private property and state resources.

I have joined with Scott Pruitt and other attorneys general — Republicans and Democrats — to oppose the EPA when it oversteps its bounds. But suing the federal government isn’t easy or enjoyable, and it’s certainly not the best way to fix an agency that has gone far astray. The best way to do that is to put someone in office who understands the law, who cares about the mission of the agency, and who will use its vast power with restraint and in keeping with the laws that govern it.

Scott Pruitt is that person. I know, from personal experience, that he cares deeply about the environment and wants to protect it. He also knows that illegal regulations that cannot survive court challenges will never accomplish the EPA’s lofty goals. The EPA under Scott Pruitt will be in the business of protecting the environment, not centralizing power in Washington or rewarding green-energy firms.

#related#Scott Pruitt will restore the EPA to its intended purpose. He will work with the states, not against them, to craft solutions that address the unique concerns of those states. What works in California may not work in Alaska, or Texas, or Alabama, or Maine. And by grounding new environmental policies in the rule of law, Pruitt will ensure that their impact lasts longer than a press release.

I have little doubt that the attacks on Pruitt will only intensify as he nears confirmation. I also have little doubt that he will continue to stand firm in the face of them. I only hope that leaders in the Senate will demonstrate that same fortitude.

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