Scott Pruitt, former Attorney General for Oklahoma, was confirmed today as EPA’s Administrator, on a Senate vote of 52-46. Environmentalists have vowed to block his efforts at every step and have called for EPA staff to do the same. So, where does Administrator Pruitt begin? Well, for starters, he needs to reassure EPA staff that he cares about the agency and its missions – and the rule of law. Next, he should get busy looking for win-win situations by helping communities and landowners remove bureaucratic barriers to meaningful reform and environmental protection. I offer the following thoughts and ideas in an article I authored for The Conservative American.
The Best of Intentions: Incentive, not bureaucracy, is the key to environmental protection
Much speculation has emerged over what the forthcoming Donald Trump administration will do for environmental protection. While many liberals and environmentalists fear Trump will cause substantial harm to the environment, there is ample reason to believe that his election poses a unique opportunity to reset the way we think about and respond to environmental challenges.
As a former U.S. EPA water official, I have spent years working with a wide variety of stakeholders, eco-entrepreneurs, companies, utilities, and environmental and conservation groups to advance environmental protection. And I have seen firsthand many of the great strides the country has taken since the Nixon era, which saw the enactment of those seminal federal environmental statutes, the Clean Water and Clean Air acts. The environment and public health are largely better off for that.
However, while our rivers no longer catch fire, the challenges we face today, such as “dead zones” in the Gulf of Mexico and Chesapeake Bay and pharmaceutical drugs increasingly found in our water supply, are perhaps even more vexing because of the ubiquitous and distributive nature of these problems. As well, our nation’s aging water and wastewater systems, while some of the best in the world, are showing signs of deterioration and posing risks to human health and the environment.
While climate change will remain an intractable political issue into the foreseeable future, we should be able to find agreement on the need to fix other things. But to make progress on many environmental issues we must recognize the impediments to progress and be willing to change the status quo. There is a serious structural problem when it’s easier to obtain agency approvals to destroy a wetland than it is to obtain approvals to restore that same wetland. But unfortunately, that’s the upside-down reality we live in today.
Continue reading . . . Best of Intentions.