In His Haste to Roll Back Rules, Scott Pruitt, E.P.A. Boss, risk your agenda


The courts, for example, found that the E.P.A. had ignored clear legal laws when it ruled that Mr. Pruitt had illegally delayed a regulation that limited methane emissions from new oil and gas wells and that the agency had violated the law by losing a deadline last year to enact restrictions to ozone.

cases, including one in which a federal court ordered the EPA to act on a Connecticut request to reduce contamination of a Pennsylvania plant, and where the judges demanded speedy action by the agency on new standards of lead paint: the courts warned Mr. Pruitt that avoiding the enactment of regulations already published was an inappropriate effort to repeal a rule without justifying the action.

"The EPA has a clear duty to act," a panel of judges from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals based in San Francisco wrote in a 2-1 decision that determined the agency should revise its lead paint standards in 90 days, as required by regulations. The agency had tried to delay the reviews for six years.

In an interview on Friday, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Mr. Trump felt that Mr. Pruitt had done a satisfactory job at the EPA. His comments suggested that Mr. Pruitt's work checking items on the president's agenda – including the removal of a large number of environmental protections – may weigh heavily as a counterweight to the ethical issues related to his travel expenses, administrative practices and the rent a living space from the wife of a prominent lobbyist.

Describing Mr. Trump's opinion of Mr. Pruitt, he said: "He likes the product of work."

Liz Bowman, an EPA spokeswoman, questioned criticism of the agency's work. "EPA does its due diligence, consulting with OMB and other federal agencies to ensure that their work is legally defensible," he said in an email, referring to the Office of Management and Budget, the office that coordinates and evaluates policies in the branch. executive

One of the main examples cited by Mr. Pruitt's critics came this week when the EPA filed its legal justification for what is undoubtedly the biggest setback of an environmental rule in the Trump administration: the proposal to get rid of a regulation of the Obama era aimed at reducing the pollution of the greenhouse gases that heat the planet from the exhaust pipes of vehicles.

Pruitt presented his case for the reversal in a 38-page document submitted on Tuesday that, according to experts, lacked the kind of legal, scientific and technical support data that courts have shown they hope to see when considering the challenges to the regulatory changes. 19659009] Continue reading the main story

"There is an incredible lack of numbers," said James McCargar, a former senior policy badyst at E.P.A. who worked in vehicle emission programs and stays in close contact with the career employees who work in those programs. "If this is challenged in court, I just do not see how they provide something that provides a technical justification for undoing the rule."


Demonstrators of the E.P.A. this month. Environmental groups have applauded the losses of the agency in court by reducing regulations related to issues such as pesticides and lead paint.

Andrew Harnik / Associated Press

The rules pursued by Pruitt would require automakers to almost double the average fuel economy of pbadenger vehicles to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. Automakers have argued that the rule is costly, forcing them to invest heavily in building hybrid and electric vehicles.

As part of the process, Mr. Pruitt introduced the 38-page document, which is intended to provide the government's legal justification for revoking the rule. Approximately half of the document consists of citations from automobile manufacturers that state their objections to the rule. By comparison, the 1,217-page document of the Obama administration that justifies its implementation of the regulation included technical, scientific, and economic badyzes that justified the rule.

Environmental policy experts said there were no badytical arguments in the E.P.A. This week. the presentation surprised them. "This document is unprecedented," said Mr. McCargar, former E.P.A. senior policy badyst. "The E.P.A. has never done anything like this."

John M. DeCicco, professor of engineering and public policy at the University of Michigan Energy Institute, said the presentation was a departure from the practices of previous Republican and Democratic administrations. [19659018] "A president, an administrator or someone can not simply say:" I'm going to change the rule ", without justifying it very, very carefully," said DeCicco. "As a scientist who has worked on these issues, I am saying, where are the numbers? Where are the data?"

The majority of the document consists of arguments that cite directly from the public comments made by the lobbyists of manufacturers of Cars, the Alliance of automakers and global automakers, that the pollution standards will be unduly burdensome for the automotive industry, as well as public comments from Toyota, Fiat Chrysler, Mercedes-Benz and Mitsubishi.

While it includes arguments opposing the regulatory backlash of groups such as the Union of Concerned Scientists and the State of California, it does not contain what environmental experts say is the critical element of a legally strong justification for changing an EPA regulation: Technician on both sides of the argument leads to a conclusion intended to persuade a judge that the change is defensible.

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Seth Michaels, spokesperson for the Union of Concerned Scientists, suggested that, in its re-use of the automotive lobby's arguments, the emission reduction document echoed Mr. Pruitt's modus operandi when he was the Attorney General of Oklahoma. [19659024] Continue reading the main story

"It is reminiscent of the 2011 letter that Scott Pruitt sent as Oklahoma AG to the EPA, in which he took a letter written by Devon Energy lawyers and enshrined his name with minimal editions," said Michaels. [19659026A2014investigationofTheTimesinwhichtheLobbyistsofDevonEnergyandanoilandgascompanyfromOklahomputtogetherlettersforthePrudenttogototheEAPintheDepartmentofInternalAffairsandtheOfficeofthePresidencyandthePresidentinlinewiththedifficultyofvariousenvironmentalregulations

Between 2011 and 2017, Mr. Pruitt filed a claim against the EPA 14 times, and lost almost all cases.

The majority appeared along with the republican general prosecutors of a dozen or more of other states, reason why it is difficult to know with precision what legal arguments contributed his office, said legal experts. Mr. Pruitt frequently took a leading role in the cases.

In the end, "many of those arguments were losers," said Richard L. Revesz, an environmental law expert at New York University.

In particular, Mr. Revesz pointed to a case presented by the group against the signing of President Obama's climate change regulation, the Clean Energy Plan, which Mr. Pruitt is now working to overthrow from within the EPA The lawsuit challenged a draft proposal for the regulation, which was an unprecedented measure that a federal court quickly quashed, saying they could not legally challenge a draft.


A site operated by Devon Energy near Stillwater, Oklahoma A 2014 investigation by The Times found that Devon lobbyists had drafted letters for Mr. Pruitt to send to President Barack Obama.

Nick Oxford for The New York Times

While prosecutors, including Mr. Pruitt, attracted media attention to the case, "The argument they had was ridiculous," Mr. Revesz said.

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However, the group achieved a great victory: after the Obama administration issued its final version of the Clean Energy Plan, it successfully petitioned the Supreme Court to temporarily suspend the implementation of the rule.

Since taking command of EPA, Mr. Pruitt has toured the country, meeting with farmers, coal miners and local leaders and promising an end to his predecessor's regulatory approach. It has also favored closed-door policy speeches for conservative think tanks, such as the Heritage Foundation, to launch policy initiatives.

The Heritage Foundation was the place that Mr. Pruitt chose this year to say he would make changes to the scientific way the studies are considered in the agency. Both critics and Pruitt supporters said that by making the proposal in a political way rather than changing the rules in a more silent but potentially more lasting way, it means that changes like these are more vulnerable to being undone by an administration. future. [19659039] Environmental groups have welcomed Mr. Pruitt's judicial losses. Joanne Spalding, chief climate counselor at the Sierra Club, said she was pleased with what she called "sloppy" and "sloppy" E.P.A. legal work "It's fine with us," he said. "Do a bad job repealing these things, because then we can go to court and win."

Thomas J. Pyle, a supporter of Pruitt & # 39; s and the president of the Energy Research Institute, a group of experts that promotes fossil fuels, which is described as spin. "The environmentalist left portrays Scott Pruitt as a devil incarnate in his fundraising requests, but they boast how ineffective it is in dismantling Obama's climate rules," he said. "Which?"

Still, some conservatives said they were concerned that Mr. Pruitt was more interested in media attention than in politics and feared more legal losses. "If the goal is to generate temporary relief and cause a sensation, then what they are doing is terribly well," said Jonathan H. Adler, director of the Center for Commercial Law and Regulation at Case Western Reserve University Law School.

But if the Trump administration wants to permanently change the regulatory environment for business, he said, the EPA can not take that "quick and dirty approach" to unravel the regulations. "I suspect that in two or three years there will be a lot to show for all the fireworks we are receiving now," Adler said.

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