More than a dozen state attorneys general and one governor have asked recently confirmed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt to scale back on federal involvement in favor of more state control.
The state officials voiced their concerns regarding EPA overreach in a letter submitted to Pruitt’s office on Tuesday, arguing that regulations such as the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act are clearly meant to be carried out by state authorities with light federal participation.
In recent years, the EPA has failed to uphold that working relationship, the officials wrote in the letter. Instead of encouraging and promoting state action, the federal government has commanded and commandeered, they said.
“Respectfully, we ask that you consider the steps that the [EPA] may take to restore the principles of corporative federalism embodied in these important statutes,” the officials wrote.
The request for decreased oversight serves as yet another strike against the EPA under President Donald Trump, who has promised to drastically roll back EPA regulations, including a controversial rule meant to clarify what the government can and cannot oversee under the Clean Water Act.
Known as “waters of the United States” rule and ardently opposed by U.S. agriculture, the measure was an Obama administration effort to clear up confusion brought on by two separate Supreme Court rulings.
Farmers and ranchers have seen the rule as a government land grab, though it hasn’t been actively enforced because the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ordered a nationwide stay in October 2015.
Despite its agricultural critics, the rule’s supporters say it would have added much needed protections to U.S. waterways and fragile ecosystems.
If the nationwide stay hasn’t been ordered, the rule would have mostly dealt with the regulation of wetlands and small streams.
March 7, 2017 letter to EPA from 19 state officials
President Trump signed an executive order in February ordering a review of the EPA rule.
“The EPA’s so-called ‘Waters of the United States’ rule is one of the worst examples of federal regulation, and it has truly run amok, and it one of the rules most strongly opposed by farmers, ranchers and agricultural workers all across our land,” Trump said when he signed the order. “It’s been a disaster.”
Of its 19 signees, only four come from top 10 agricultural producing states. They include attorneys general Ken Paxton of Texas, Curtis Hill Jr. of Indiana, Derek Schmidt of Kansas and Douglas Peterson of Nebraska.
All but one of the officials who signed their names to the letter to Pruitt — who sued the EPA several times while serving as Oklahoma’s attorney general — are Republicans. Attorney General Christopher Carr is nonpartisan.
The Natural Resources Defense Council and other environment advocacy groups have called requests for dismantling EPA regulations as extreme and reckless.
“Donald Trump opened his presidency with actions directly at odds with his inaugural message,” NRDC President Rhea Suh said in a statement. “Even as he vowed to hold companies to account for moving jobs overseas, he and his team began working to free those same companies to pollute our environment and threaten our health here at home.”
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