The Radical Idea Behind Trump’s EPA Rollbacks

Politico discusses Trump’s environmental policy with Myron Ebell.

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.

Myron Ebell, a longtime critic of climate change science and the Trump administration’s former transition leader for EPA, supports Pruitt’s originalism mission because it dials back the agency’s reach.

“It seems to me EPA has fairly clear statutory responsibilities under a number of statutes, and those statutory responsibilities should come first,” said Ebell, director of the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Center for Energy and the Environment.

“But over time and particularly in the Obama administration, they have taken on a whole lot of things which are entirely discretionary, that they don’t have to do, they’re not required by law to do it, but they decided to do it anyway,” Ebell added.

Read the full article at Politico.