Pruitt's Impact On The EPA

Jul 7, 2018
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LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

Scott Simon is away. And so is Scott Pruitt. He resigned from his post at the EPA on Thursday. Pruitt cited unrelenting attacks on him and his family as a reason for his departure. And he certainly was under siege. There were more than a dozen federal investigations of Pruitt - ranging from looks into his relationships with lobbyists to accusations of abusive spending. But what did Scott Pruitt achieve as EPA administrator? And what will the EPA look like now without him? To help us find out, we have William Buzbee in the studio. He is a law professor at Georgetown University, a specialist in environmental law. Welcome to the program.

WILLIAM BUZBEE: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

WERTHEIMER: Now, Mr. Pruitt approached deregulation with enthusiasm. Quickly, could you just give us a sense of his principal achievements?

BUZBEE: He had actually very few achievements. He has many proposals in the pipeline. But most are in the pipeline, and most are deeply flawed.

WERTHEIMER: So not likely to go zipping along and become new regulations.

BUZBEE: I think that many will probably be revisited and, if they want them to be successful, will have to be adjusted and pay more attention to the law and pay more attention to science and protection of the environment.

WERTHEIMER: Now, Andrew Wheeler will step into Pruitt's shoes on Monday as the acting chief. He was the deputy. I sort of had the impression that Mr. Wheeler was kind of handling those kinds of things - the technicalities, the tough stuff - true, not true?

BUZBEE: I'm not sure we know. We don't know internally how they interacted. He was acting in the deputy role, and so he would have had much control. But in the end, the final calls wouldn't have been his. Will he bring more professionalism and respect for law to EPA will be the big question.

WERTHEIMER: Does he share Pruitt's passion for deregulating environmental law? Do activists worry? I know there are activists that do worry that he'll be more effective than Pruitt.

BUZBEE: I think that is a legitimate concern. He worked for Senator Inhofe. He's a past lobbyist for coal interests. And so some worry that he will just be a more clever version of Pruitt - more smoothly trying to achieve the same goals. But others also say that he's more professional and hence may grow into his role.

WERTHEIMER: Do you think that he will be asked to stay on? Is that a possibility?

BUZBEE: That certainly is something people are talking about. He, in the past, has said that, no, if he wanted to be the head of EPA, he would have sought that role. He said he's happy to serve in the role he was in.

WERTHEIMER: Does he - he has rather controversial views on climate change, doesn't he?

BUZBEE: Yes, he is someone who has, like others in the administration, expressed great skepticism that climate change is a reality.

WERTHEIMER: So if he were to be named Pruitt's successor, we could look forward to something that hasn't happened yet. Changes in - are there changes in climate regulation?

BUZBEE: There are several proposals to weaken climate regulation that started under the Obama administration but actually goes back to Supreme Court decisions a decade ago. His views, in the end, don't rule the day. What Congress has set in the law and what the science shows is, in the end, what he would have to follow as the head of EPA. So he might try to nudge it in that direction. But if he respects the law, he would not be able to just force it in that direction.

WERTHEIMER: Thank you very much. William Buzbee is professor of law at Georgetown University. Thank you for coming in.

BUZBEE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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