Subcommittee Chairmen Respond to Antiquities Act Reform Legislation

The Committee has marked up H.R. 3990, the “National Monument Creation and Protection Act” or “CAP Act.” Introduced by Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT), the bill protects archeological resources while ensuring public transparency and accountability in the executive’s use of the Antiquities Act.

“The Constitution gives to Congress alone the jurisdiction over public lands. While the executive should be able to move swiftly to protect small archeological sites from imminent threat of looting or desecration, the decision over whether to set aside vast portions of land in perpetuity should only be made after the lengthy debate, public input and accountability that are the unique attributes of the legislative branch,” Subcommittee on Federal Lands Chairman Tom McClintock (R-CA) said.  

“Our government works best when it works with the people it serves to accomplish objectives for the common good. For too long, our leaders have not adhered to these principles. The ‘National Monument Creation and Protection Act’ seeks to protect the public’s interests from executive overreach through collaboration with local stakeholders, comprehensive review of monument designations and congressional direction on any future presidential monument reductions. I thank Chairman Bishop for his leadership on this issue and look forward to passage of this important legislation,” Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chairman Bruce Westerman (R-AR) stated.

“When Teddy Roosevelt created the Antiquities Act, his intent was to set aside unique areas of land, not to cutoff millions of acres for the federal government to control that produces no revenue or benefit – all while hurting local governments. Through the years, the abuse of this power has snowballed to a point where President Obama designated more acreage during his Presidency than all other Presidents combined. This process unfairly eliminates local input altogether and severely limits the public’s access to hunting, fishing, and other recreational activities as well as reasonable resource development on their public lands. It is important that the decision to designate or expand national monuments is returned to Congress, where the local citizens and communities can have a say,” Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs Chairman Doug LaMalfa (R-CA) said.

“This legislation secures a future for locally supported national monuments, checked executive authority, and empowered local governments. The original intent of the Act is upheld and strengthened with measures that bring us into the twenty-first century. I firmly believe this will provide the accountability we need when it comes to protecting our lands,” Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans Chairman Doug Lamborn (R-CO) stated.

“Regardless of political affiliation, presidents on either side of the aisle shouldn’t be able to create massive new national monuments by executive fiat without local public input. It is, after all, the people living near these national monuments that are most affected by their creation. Our nation’s public resources are best managed when the people that use those lands are intimately involved in the process. Chairman Bishop’s ‘National Monument Creation and Protection Act’ protects private property rights and empowers local stakeholders while also including important clarifying definitions that should have been included in the original law. I am grateful for his strong leadership on this issue and am proud to be a cosponsor,” Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources Chairman Paul Gosar (R-AZ) said.

Trump Slaps Motorists with Ethanol Costs

Anyone traveling along the roadways that run parallel to that part of the Delaware River where George Washington staged his famous Christmas night crossing in 1776 is sure to encounter signs that take aim at an energy project known as the PennEast Pipeline.

Some of those signs invoke revolutionary language with statements that claim “We the People Say No to PennEast.”

Other signs say: “Don’t Let them Poison Our Water! Stop PennEast,” “Pipeline Blast Zone, Stop PennEast,” “Just Say No! Stop PennEast,” and “Stop the Fracking Pipelines.”

The messages opposing the natural gas pipeline can be spotted along roadways on both the Pennsylvania and New Jersey sides of the river.

Any day now, the six energy companies that are part of the PennEast Pipeline project expect to get a green light to proceed from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which regulates the interstate transmission of natural gas, oil, and electricity. That approval would come in the form of a certificate allowing construction and operation of the pipeline.

The anti-pipeline signs and mailings mention ReThink Energy NJ, a coalition of environmentalists who have received substantial funding from the Philadelphia-based William Penn Foundation.

Under current plans, the proposed 120-mile-long, 36-inch-diameter, underground pipeline would originate just north of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, in an area that interconnects with other major interstate pipelines that serve markets on the East Coast, including New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

Wilkes-Barre, the county seat of Luzerne County, sits on the outskirts of the Pocono Mountains in the northeastern part of Pennsylvania.

If the federal commission OKs it, a year from now a new pipeline will be poised to transport natural gas across Eastern Pennsylvania and the Delaware River into Mercer County, New Jersey, where it will interconnect with the Transco Pipeline in the borough of Pennington.

The PennEast Pipeline would draw from natural gas produced in the Marcellus shale formation that cuts across Pennsylvania, New York, and parts of Ohio and West Virginia.

‘The Least Cost Available’

Tony Cox, project manager for PennEast, told The Daily Signal in an interview that he expects energy consumers in Pennsylvania and New Jersey to begin to see the benefits of the pipeline beginning in the winter of 2018-2019.

With approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission expected this fall, the seven-month construction phase would begin next spring, and the pipeline would become operational in the second half of next year, according to PennEast’s projected timeline.

“September is what we call a ‘shoulder month’ in the gas industry, because you are past the summer months, but you are not yet in the winter. This means you are in a period of low energy consumption,” Cox said, adding:

But we still see a vast disparity between the price of gas in the Marcellus region and in New Jersey. These price differences around the country are one of the drivers for natural gas infrastructure, and one of the obligations that gas utilities have is to procure the least cost of gas available.

Right now, as it relates to New Jersey, that gas is located 100 miles away in Pennsylvania. But as we can see from the price difference, there is not ample infrastructure to get the gas to where it needs to go.

As of late September, Cox noted, the price for natural gas delivery in the Marcellus Shale region was $1.79 per dekatherm (a unit of energy measurement), compared with $3.16 per dekatherm in New Jersey, according to Gas Daily, a publication that provides the oil and gas industry with analytical reports on prices in the energy markets. That’s a difference of $1.37, or 76.5 percent higher, in New Jersey.

“Right now, there’s not enough capacity to meet the energy demands of New Jersey residents during peak periods, as evidenced by the large price differentials between these two areas,” Cox said. “With PennEast, we will have the ability to dampen the impact of high-demand periods and provide cost savings.”

When the $1.37 price difference for natural gas between the Marcellus area of Pennsylvania and New Jersey is “amplified by the capacity PennEast will have to transport natural gas,” Cox said, he anticipates “more than a half of a billion dollars in savings” to New Jersey consumers.

Sierra Club Disputes Figures

The PennEast project manager is not alone in projecting substantial savings.

PennEast proponents point to a study from Concentric Energy Advisors—which describes itself as an independent management consulting and financial advisory firm focused on the North American energy industry—that found PennEast would provide  savings of more than $500 million for electricity and natural gas consumers in Pennsylvania and savings of more than $400 million for consumers in New Jersey.

Despite the intense opposition of environmental activists, who view the pipeline as a danger to the region, PennEast appears set to secure the necessary regulatory approval to move forward.

In April, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued a favorable final environmental impact statement for PennEast that said any potential impact would be “adequately minimized” through mitigation efforts.

In August, the U.S. Senate confirmed the Trump administration’s nominees to the commission, providing the agency with the quorum needed to approve projects such as PennEast.

But Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, disputes the figures PennEast has circulated that show energy consumers stand to benefit financially from the new infrastructure. Instead, he anticipates the pipeline actually would raise costs.

“Individually, these companies [that are part of PennEast] have been seeking rate hikes to pay for the pipelines, because they cost money,” Tittel said. “They have to pay back investors. How does this save people money?”

Tittel also cited a report from Stephanie Brand, director of the New Jersey Division of Rate Counsel, who has expressed reservations about the pipeline’s cost and utility. The division’s mission is to advocate for energy consumers.

“PennEast is dangerous and unnecessary, and the PennEast companies are just trying to make money for themselves. This has nothing to do with consumers and their energy needs,” the Sierra Club leader said. “Natural gas is a commodity, and the price is set by commodity markets, and it’s just not true to say that the pipeline will lower prices.”

“The other problem is that the pipeline will pass through environmentally sensitive and scenic areas, and pass through quaint, bucolic little towns that depend on ecotourism. This is also a historic area, where [George] Washington crossed the Delaware.

“Now you’re going to have this big, ugly pipeline cutting through, and it’s going to hurt the economy,” Tittel said.

‘Alternatives Are More Expensive’

In the “Frequently Asked Questions” section of its website, PennEast provides readers with detailed answers to questions about the project’s size and scope, potential economic benefits to consumers, environmental safeguards, and restoration efforts that will take place once the pipeline is completed. A separate report from PennEast describes how natural gas development will bring both economic and environmental benefits.

Pat Kornick, a spokeswoman for PennEast, said “well-funded” anti-pipeline activists who have maintained a constant presence in the public eye and in the media are not looking out for the best interests of the people they claim to represent.

“When people question the need for a new pipeline, they are not seeing the big price discrepancies that exist between the New Jersey marketplace and the Pennsylvania portions of the Marcellus, where natural gas is produced,” she said. “Pipelines are the cheapest, most effective way to bring natural gas to market. The alternatives to pipelines, which involve the trucking and transportation of liquefied natural gas, are much more expensive.”

The funding that stands behind the environmental activism directed against natural gas development is evident from the signs littering the roadways in New Jersey, and from mailings delivered to area residents.

Every member of the coalition called ReThink Energy, cited on the opposition materials, has received substantial funding from the William Penn Foundation, a private, nonprofit charity.

Grants the foundation distributed to ReThink Energy members in recent years include $395,000 in 2017 and $582,000 in 2015 to the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, $82,500 in 2016 to the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association, and $227,400 in 2016 to the Pinelands Preservation Alliance.

Tom Shepstone, who operates the Natural Gas Now blog, a product of his research firm based in Honesdale, Pennsylvania, told The Daily Signal that the William Penn Foundation is not permitted to do any lobbying as a private charity. But, he argued,  the organization is making an end run around the prohibition by distributing grants to environmental activists and compliant media outlets that do its bidding.

“As a private foundation, they shouldn’t be doing any lobbying, but when you think about it that’s all they do at the foundation,” Shepstone said. “When they pass out money year after year to certain groups, they are doing this to influence public policy.”

Foundation-Funded News Outlets Defend Coverage 

Shepstone said he also sees a connection between the William Penn Foundation and negative press coverage of PennEast.

Philadelphia-based WHYY Inc., which has TV, radio, and digital news operations, has received $660,000 from William Penn for its StateImpact Pennsylvania news service. Community Foundation of New Jersey, which supports the NJ Spotlight news service, has received $350,200 from William Penn.

“So much of the narrative against PennEast is written by the people who are on the same side as the people spinning the narrative,” Shepstone said. “The groups opposed to the pipeline have a shared funding source in the form of the William Penn Foundation, and you also have StateImpact Pennsylvania and NJ Spotlight, which are funded by the William Penn Foundation.

“So, when an environmental group has something negative to say about PennEast, that’s immediately picked up by these two news services to echo it and repeat it. It is so sad to see newspaper reporters not pick up on these blatant conflicts of interest,” he said.

Lee Keough, editor-in-chief of NJ Spotlight, defended his organization’s coverage in an email Wednesday to The Daily Signal.

“We receive financial support from all sides of this issue—utilities, environmental groups, the William Penn Foundation, as well as PennEast itself,” Keough wrote, adding:

Take a look at our site today … You may have to reload a few times to see all the ads. Nor do I think we have necessarily taken a critical view of the issue, although we have given it a lot of coverage. That reflects the passion that pipelines engender locally.

WHYY, the media company behind the StateImpact Pennsylvania news service, also responded to The Daily Signal’s request for comment.

“We strive to present balanced and factual information that takes into account all sides of the pipeline issue,” Sandra Clark, WHYY vice president for news and civic dialogue, said in an email.

“As with all of our reporting, no funder dictates our editorial coverage in any way and, as always, we’re sensitive to potential or perceived conflicts of interest. The issues raised about our coverage of the PennEast Pipeline have no basis in fact.”

Foundation Mum on Funding 

The Daily Signal repeatedly invited the William Penn Foundation to comment for this article on its funding of environmental groups and media organizations, and asked what its position is on PennEast. The foundation did not respond.

The Sierra Club Foundation received $300,000 from the William Penn Foundation in 2017 and $250,000 in 2016. But Tittel said his New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club and the Sierra Club Foundation are two separate organizations, and his New Jersey group has not received funding from the foundation.

Tom Gilbert, campaign director for energy, climate, and natural resources at the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, declined to address his organization’s relationship with the William Penn Foundation, but explained why his group is opposed to the pipeline.

“We oppose PennEast because it would have significant impacts on thousands of acres of taxpayer preserved open space and farmland, some of the cleanest streams in the state, and habitat for threatened and endangered species,” Gilbert said in an email to The Daily Signal, adding:

Furthermore, energy experts and the N.J. Division of Rate Counsel have concluded that there is no evidence of need for the project, and it would be ‘unfair to ratepayers.’

PennEast faces tremendous opposition in New Jersey. Approximately two-thirds of the affected homeowners have refused to grant them survey access or easements.  Every town in the path of the pipeline opposes it. Thousands of citizens spoke out against it during the FERC [Federal Energy Regulatory Commission] process.

Real or Illusory Opposition?

The idea that there is a groundswell of opposition to the pipeline on the part of the public is highly suspect, Shepstone of the Natural Gas Now blog told The Daily Signal.

“When you see all these signs out there, you have to remember that the funding behind them comes from narrow special interests that do not speak for average citizens and from one rich family at the William Penn Foundation opposed to development,” he said.

“The public stands to benefit from the pipeline and from clean, affordable natural gas. These environmental groups are just shills for the William Penn Foundation, and with their echo chamber in the media, it makes the opposition seem bigger than it really is.”

Another key player is the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, a nonprofit based in Bristol, Pennsylvania, which has been a persistent opponent of PennEast since the project was first announced.

The Riverkeeper Network has been sharply critical of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the agency’s positive environmental assessment of PennEast.

“There are very serious ramifications from PennEast for people’s health and safety,” Riverkeeper Network President Maya K. van Rossum said. “We are talking about devastation to very important habitats, wetlands, and forests, and increased pollution running off into our waterways, and this runoff contributing to erosion and the loss of habitat.”

The group released its own report on what it calls the economic costs of PennEast.

“The damage done by PennEast will far outpace any benefits,” van Rossum said. “The tradeoff is not worth it in terms of lives and livelihoods.”

The William Penn Foundation donated about $1.4 million to the Delaware Riverkeeper Network in 2017 and $914,000 in 2015. But van Rossum dismissed the idea that her organization takes direction from the foundation.

“That’s a false argument, a misrepresentation, and a red herring,” she said, adding:

We have multiple funding streams, and foundation funding is but one of them. When you apply for a foundation grant, you propose the work that you are going to do in the public interest, and the funder chooses whether or not to support that work. The funder does not give you money and then dictate what you are to do with it.

‘Held Hostage’

Jordan McGillis is a policy analyst with the Washington-based Institute for Energy Research, a nonprofit that  supports a free-market approach to energy policy. McGillis is highly critical of the role the Delaware Riverkeeper Network has played through the PennEast approval process.

“Despite their proximity to the Marcellus Shale, New Jersey and the rest of the northeastern states pay some of the highest electricity rates in the country,” McGillis said. “The reason is that they’re being held hostage by the ‘keep-it-in-the-ground’ movement. In the case of New Jersey, one of the main culprits is the Delaware Riverkeeper Network and its frivolous lawsuits.”

The energy policy analyst added:

The pernicious effect groups like this have isn’t trivial. Each pipeline delay results in New Jersey residents paying millions of dollars more than is necessary for energy. A study by Concentric Energy Advisors estimated that people in New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania could have saved $900 million in the winter of 2013-2014 had something like the Penneast pipeline been operable.

When you look at the 990s [IRS tax forms], and you see that groups like the Delaware Riverkeeper aren’t the local, grass-roots movements they purport to be, but rather are funded by megadonors like the William Penn Foundation, it adds to the frustration you feel for the people who bear the costs of the seemingly endless legal delays.

Shepstone, the Natural Gas Now blogger, told The Daily Signal that the Delaware River Basin Commission’s authority over pipelines “is highly questionable,” and he expects PennEast to go forward.

PennEast is working to obtain approval from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the Delaware River Basin Commission, a federal interstate agency.

But the ultimate authority rests with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Earlier this year, the New Jersey environmental agency returned PennEast’s application, saying it wanted more information.

“We are still working with all of these local agencies to obtain their approval,” Kornick, the PennEast spokeswoman, said. “With the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, they didn’t reject our application. They said it was incomplete and asked for more information, which we are providing.”

Report by Kevin Mooney. Originally published at The Daily Signal.

EPA Pushes Back on Practice That Environmentalist Groups Used to Dictate Agenda

When environmental pressure groups can promote their agendas through closed-door rule-making with the Environmental Protection Agency, something has gone seriously wrong with the regulatory process.

This is precisely what has been happening at federal agencies in recent years—but not for much longer at the EPA. On Monday, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt issued a directive to put an end to this process, which is called “sue and settle.”

On the surface, sue and settle doesn’t sound bad. An organization sues a federal agency to compel it to issue regulations, which the agency was already required to do under the law. Instead of litigating, the agency just settles the dispute.

If only that was how it worked in practice. In reality, sue and settle has many problems. Under sue and settle, environmental pressure groups have been able to file cases, meet with the agency in private, and then settle with the agency, effectively dictating the agency’s agenda.

Even when the agency is merely agreeing to meet a deadline as required by law, the agency and the environmental group will enter into agreements that create unrealistic timelines that can lead to bad policy. They can set deadlines to avoid many of the regulatory safeguards that exist, such as proper cost-benefit analysis.

In many of these cases, there is often a question of whether a federal agency is even required to issue regulations—yet the agency simply caves to the environmental group and does as the group desires.

Even worse, agencies have worked with these environmental groups to develop the substance of regulations before they are even proposed to the public.

And very often, the public is not even aware that the agency is being sued, and will find it very difficult to intervene or have any real voice in providing a different perspective on the lawsuit.

This closed process stands in stark contrast to how the federal regulatory system is supposed to work.

The Administrative Procedure Act, which governs the federal rule-making process, was designed to provide notice to the public, allow for public participation, and give the public a meaningful voice in the regulatory process. Sue and settle circumvents this entire process.

The EPA, though, is taking action. Here’s what the EPA directive says:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in partnership with the states, serves a vital role in protecting human health and the environment. When conducting agency action to achieve these objectives, the EPA must strive to promote transparency and public participation to provide the American public with due process, accountability, and a sense of fair dealing.

To stop sue and settle, the EPA explains it will do the following, among other things:

  • Inform the public that the agency is being sued.
  • Reach out to affected parties about proposed settlements.
  • Provide sufficient time for rule-makings, including to receive public comments.
  • Allow the public to comment on any proposed settlements and request public hearings.
  • Ensure that the EPA is actually required by law to issue regulations as requested by the special interests. The agency won’t take what isn’t a requirement and make it one through a settlement agreement.
  • When settling a case, seek to exclude the payment of attorney’s fees and costs to plaintiffs.

The EPA should be commended for taking this much-needed action against sue and settle. Other agencies, such as the Department of Interior, need to follow the EPA’s lead.

Congress also needs to pass legislation to do away with this sue and settle abuse so that it can’t happen in the future.

Commentary by Daren Bakst. Originally published at The Daily Signal.

Cruz: Ending ‘Sue and Settle’ Practice is a Major Victory for Landowners

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) applauded EPA administrator Scott Pruitt’s announcement that he is ending “sue and settle” practices within the agency, and urged his colleagues in Congress to pass the Sunshine for Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act, which would enact this policy into law.

“The announcement from the EPA to end ‘sue and settle’ practices in the EPA is a major victory for millions of hardworking Texas landowners,” Sen. Cruz said. “For far too long, the EPA has colluded with special interest groups, resolving litigation through consent decrees and settlement agreements behind closed doors. I commend Administrator Pruitt for his leadership on this issue and ending the practice of regulation through litigation. I urge my colleagues in both the House and the Senate to pass the Sunshine for Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act, to codify this policy into law, providing lasting transparency and accountability to the agency.”

In his fight to protect private property rights, Sen. Cruz has long led efforts to rein in the federal overreach of the EPA and restore accountability to the agency by ending the practice of regulation by litigation:

  • In April 2013, February 2015, and January 2017 Sen. Cruz cosponsored the Sunshine for Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act of 2017, introduced by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).

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Daily Signal: Interview with EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt spoke to me earlier this week at The Heritage Foundation’s annual President’s Club meeting in Washington. We discussed his leadership of the EPA, the agency’s top priorities, and what Pruitt considers true environmentalism. An edited transcript of our interview, along with the full video, is below.

Bluey: You’ve had a busy week. On Monday, you took a decisive action and ended the sue and settle process that has been plaguing the EPA and our government for a number of years. Can you explain to this audience why that is so significant and what it actually means?

Pruitt: Yes, well, it’s good to be with you. In fact, I see [former Attorney] General [Edwin] Meese here in the front and it’s always good to see General Meese. He has served as a great inspiration to me over the years.

With respect to this particular question on sue and settle, it is actually something General Meese talked about back in the 1980s. We’ve seen agencies at the federal level for many years engage in rulemaking through the litigation process, where a third party will sue an agency and, in the course of that lawsuit, an agency will agree to certain obligations. Maybe take a discretionary duty under statute and make it nondiscretionary or there will be a timeline in a statute and they’ll change the timeline.

But suffice it to say, they engage in what we would call substantive rulemaking, and then the court blesses it without much inquiry. The agency will take that consent decree and go to the states and citizens all over the country and say, ‘Thou shalt,’ and sometimes that mandate is totally untethered to the statute—the obligations that Congress has passed for that agency to engage in.

My job is to enforce the laws as passed by whom? Congress. They give me my authority. That’s the jurisdictional responsibilities that I have, and when litigation is used to regulate … that’s abusive. That’s wrong.

It is fifth-grade civics. I don’t know if they teach civics in fifth grade anymore, but at least they used to. I hang out at the executive branch; we’re an executive branch agency. My job is to enforce the laws as passed by whom? Congress. They give me my authority. That’s the jurisdictional responsibilities that I have, and when litigation is used to regulate … that’s abusive. That’s wrong. We took the first step under the Trump administration [Monday] to end the sue and settle process entirely at the EPA.

It is not just an attitude shift, not just a commitment to not engage in sue and settle and regulation for litigation. We actually put directives in the memoranda, safeguards if you will.

For instance, if there is settlement that we are engaged in, settlement discussions with a third party that sued the agency, we will post that settlement for all the world to see, for at least 30 days, for people to comment on it across the country so that there is transparency with respect to those discussions.

If a state seeks to intervene in litigation with respect to issues that impact them, we’re going to have a very generous and accommodating attitude to our states participating in those settlement discussions. But here’s one of the more important ones: in the past the sue and settle process has been affected by third parties. They would go to the EPA and they would say, ‘Let’s work out a deal,’ and, as I indicated, go to the court, put it within a consent decree without any type of transparency.

But then here’s the kicker: They would pay attorneys fees to the group that sued them. So the group is effectively engaging in rulemaking and they get attorneys fees to get paid to do it.

In my directive to the agency, I said this: We’re not going to pay attorneys fees anymore in that regard. If we have a settlement and there’s no prevailing party, there shouldn’t be attorneys fees. We’ve directed no attorneys fees as part of the end of this sue and settle practice. It’s been a busy week already but every week is that way.

Bluey: The left, over the past generation, has defined environmentalism in a way that is counter to freedom, conservation, even science. I want to ask, what do you consider true environmentalism?

Pruitt: That’s a great question, and it’s one our society needs to ask and answer. The past administration told everyone in this room at some point, told the American citizens across the country, that we have to choose between jobs and growth and environmental stewardship.

We’ve never done that as a country. To give you an example, since 1980, there are certain pollutants that we regulate under the Clean Air Act, criteria pollutants, they are called. … We’ve reduced those pollutants over 65 percent since 1980, but we’ve also grown our [gross domestic product] substantially.

We, as a country, have always used innovative technology to advance environmental stewardship, reduction of those pollutants, but also grown our economy at the same time. It was the past administration that told everyone that you had to choose between the two. That just simply is a false narrative. It’s a false choice, so we need to ask ourselves, what is true environmentalism?

True environmentalism from my perspective is using natural resources that God has blessed us with.

True environmentalism from my perspective is using natural resources that God has blessed us with to feed the world, to power the world with the sensitivity that future generations cultivate, to harvest, to be respectful good stewards, good managers of our natural resources, to bequeath those natural resources for the next generation.

It would be like having this beautiful apple orchard that can feed the world and the environmental folks of the past would say, ‘Build a fence. Don’t touch the apple orchard, though it can feed people.’ That’s not the proper approach. They would say it’s so pristine and we shouldn’t touch it. That’s not what we should do. We should harvest that apple orchard. We should use it to benefit our fellow mankind, but with environmental stewardship in mind for future generations. We can do both. That’s what we need to do with the EPA going forward and we are doing that.

Bluey: I’m glad you brought up [former President Barack] Obama and his administration because the media often portrays him as an environmental hero and you’re portrayed as the villain. What are you most frustrated about with the media’s coverage of you personally and the EPA in general under President Trump?

Pruitt: Well, I don’t like the hero-villain thing that you put me through there, but when you look at the past administration and what they actually achieved as far as environmental outcomes, they did not achieve very much.

In fact, look at those criteria for what we do regulate. One-hundred-twenty-million people in this country live in areas that don’t meet air quality standards. That’s what the previous administration left us with. They had Flint, Michigan, and Gold King, Colorado, with respect to water. With respect to those areas that we regulate that have land waste, we have more sites than when President Obama came into office.

[W]hen you look at the past administration and what they actually achieved as far as environmental outcomes, they did not achieve very much.

They tried to regulate carbon dioxide twice and struck out twice. So really when you look at that agenda, what did they actually achieve other than uncertainty and adversarial relationships with those across the country?

When you look at farmers and ranchers, for example, they are our first environmentalists. They are our first conservationists. When you look at the greatest asset that they have it is their land. They care about the water that they drink. They care about the air that they breathe. We should see them as partners, not adversaries. We should see them as states in the same vain. They have expertise and resources that we don’t have. We have resources that they don’t have. It should be a partnership and collaboration.

I’ve been on a 25-state tour over the last two to three months with respect to the Waters of the United States rule. We’re withdrawing that rule. We’re getting that right. As we’ve gone through that process, I was in Utah with Gov. [Gary] Herbert talking about issues there, the second driest state in the country. The very next day, I was in Minnesota; [there are] different issues in Minnesota with respect to waters than in Utah.

As we do our work in D.C., we should do our work in collaboration and in partnership, in cohesion with states so that we can work on environmental issues from Superfund to air quality to water quality across the full spectrum in things that we do in partnership with those folks. That’s the failure of the past administration. They saw them as adversaries and not partners.

Moreover, they acted outside the scope of their authority, which created tremendous uncertainty. President Trump, who is doing a fabulous job, is leading with great courage and conviction. He’s in the White House today because of two primary things: the American people want courage and they want action, and he embodies both of those in his leadership.

But as we look to these issues in areas that we regulate with respect to air land and water, these are issues that we ought to be working together to achieve and setting clear objectives. Where should we be in air quality in two to four years? Where should we be in investment of air and water infrastructure? How do we improve remediate those sites with respective to the Superfund?

Let me give you an example. There’s a site just outside of St. Louis, Missouri. It’s a site that has 8,000 tons of uranium from the Manhattan Project commingled with the 38,000 thousand tons of solid waste dispersed over this large geographic area outside of St. Louis.

We’re getting back to the basics and we’re operating under the rule of law.

It was discovered in 1970. In 1990, the EPA listed that site on the national priority list. Twenty-seven years later, as we’re in this auditorium together, the agency still has not made a decision on how to remediate that site, excavate, or cap the site. Twenty-seven years … to not even make a decision? That’s totally unacceptable. In fact, that’s one of the things that as I came into this position, I was so stuck by.

As I was engaged in meetings at the office, there just appeared to be a lack of urgency, a lack of focus, a lack of energy to do what’s right to serve the American people—the fundamental way to provide real, tangible environmental outcomes in water, air, and Superfund.

We’re getting back to the basics and we’re operating under the rule of law. We’re respecting process and we’re also engaging in federalism principles to ensure that we’re partnering together. It sounds like a pretty good agenda to me and I think in this country, we ought to be adopting that, not vilifying it to your question.

Bluey: I want to ask specifically about the Waters of the United States rule you raised. At Heritage, it’s an issue that we’ve done a lot of work on. It’s something we recognize that has a tremendous impact across this country. You’ve made a decision that you were going to conduct a reevaluation. What are your goals as you go through that process and coming out of it?

Pruitt: Clarity. I mean, that’s what’s so crazy about the past administration. … Let me give you a little background. The last time we defined that was 1986 as far as Waters of the United States. We provided guidance in 2008; that’s about as far as the definition of a water of the United States is. So the past administration said we need to provide clarity across the country when federal jurisdiction begins and ends. If that was their objective, they failed miserably. Because people all over the country have no idea today where federal jurisdiction begins and ends under that 2015 rule.

I mentioned Utah. I was in Salt Lake City with Gov. Herbert with an Army Corps of Engineers representative about two months ago. We were standing outside of this subdivision and this Army Corps of Engineers representative pointed to this thermal drainage ditch and said, “Scott, that is a water of the United States,” and I said, “It’s not going to be anymore.” That’s really the challenge here—that you had so much confusion and uncertainty about what waters were in [and] what waters were out.

They call this deregulation. This is regulatory reform, this is regulatory clarity. We’re getting rid of the deficient rule and then we’re going to provide a new definition that provides bright line criteria by which to define where jurisdiction begins and ends.

So what does that mean? That means land use across this country is held hostage because folks aren’t going to deploy capital. They aren’t going to allocate resources They aren’t going to put capital at risk and then face a fine five or 10 years from now saying you should’ve had a permit because this is covered under Waters of the United States.

The No. 1 objective is to get the definition right and to provide clarity across the country on when federal jurisdiction ends and we’re going to do that in 2018. We’re going to withdraw the rule that’s in place right now and that will be finished by the end of the year. Then we’ve got a substitute definition, and this is where the environmental left misses it. They call this deregulation. This is regulatory reform, this is regulatory clarity. We’re getting rid of the deficient rule and then we’re going to provide a new definition that provides bright line criteria by which to define where jurisdiction begins and ends. That’s so key and that’s what we are going to accomplish in 2018, and it’s not going to be the federal drainage ditch.

Bluey: The Clean Power Plan is another major action you’ve taken recently. In the same context, what are the implications of doing away with that? And where do you see it going next?

Pruitt: For the first time in history, the Supreme Court entered a pending litigation and issued a stay of enforcement against the Clean Power Plan. That case is being litigated in the D.C. Circuit. The Supreme Court intervened and said stop the enforcement of the rule because it’s going to impact the marketplace in ways that we don’t think meet the statutory criteria or authority of the agency.

So again, uncertainty. We had uncertainty in the utility sector, so let me say this to you: generally, from a regulatory perspective this is going to be a very profound statement, regulations should make things regular. That’s our job to take a statute and administer the statute and make things regular across the full spectrum of people subject to the statute or subject to the regulation. It’s not to pick winners and losers.

The president made a tremendously courageous decision by saying we’re going to get out of the Paris accord, put America first, and make sure that we lead with action and not words.

It’s not the job of the EPA to say to the utility company in any state of the country, you should choose renewables over natural gas or coal. We need fuel diversity in the general electricity. We need more choices, not less. No agency at the federal level should use their coerce power to force business utility companies to take those fuel sources away. They should be making it on cost, stability, and I would say resiliency of the grid.

The president talks a lot about economic growth. We’re already at 3-plus percent and this tax cut package is going to provide tremendous growth. When you grow your economy at 3 to 4 percent as opposed to 1 percent, the power grid, the resiliency of the power grid takes more significance, so when you reduce fuel sources that takes on more vulnerabilities.

We need solid hydrocarbons like coal to be stored onsite to address peak demand. We need natural gas, we need renewables, we need all that. Chancellor [Angela] Merkel, in this Paris accord situation, I know you didn’t ask about this, but I have to get this in, when we talk about this Paris accord issue, if Germany is so concerned about this reduction of CO2, why is Chancellor Merkel getting rid of all nuclear in Germany? Its hypocritical and, by the way, we’re at pre-1994 levels in this country and from 2000-2014 after we exited Kyoto, we reduced our CO2 footprint by 18 percent, almost 20 percent, and that’s in the same timeframe.

This country has alway led with action, not words and labels like Paris. The president made a tremendously courageous decision by saying we’re going to get out of the Paris accord, put America first, and make sure that we lead with action and not words.

Bluey: What is your strategy for rolling back cumbersome regulations that hurt small businesses?

Pruitt: There has been a threefold strategy that has been introduced to the agencies since Day One. In fact, as I addressed the agency on the first day, I talked about three primary things.

One, respect for rule of law. The only authority we have is the one Congress gives us in the statutes, which enhances regulatory certainty when we act congruent to statutory guidelines.

Secondly, we are going to respect process, which means that as we go through rulemaking, we’re actually going to do what Congress says. We’re going to propose a rule. We’re going to take comment and it’s our responsibility to respond to that comment. Then, we’re going to finalize that rule by being informed of how it’s going to impact folks all over the country. That’s good. That’s how consensus is built.

Thirdly, we’re going to respect federalism. Congress is prescribed into the Clean Air Act, into the Clean Water Act certain responsibilities placed upon states. They imagined and really believed that we can work together.

[Trump is] in the White House today because of two primary things: the American people want courage and they want action, and he embodies both of those in his leadership.

Those are the three primary principles by which we are doing our work. I think as we do that, it’s going to create better outcomes for air, land, and water, as far as environmental outcomes.

But as far as when you look at the disrespective process—that’s the reason the sue and settle aspect makes the remedy there is so important. I think if we get back to the basics there and focus on those three cornerstone principles, we’re going to see better outcomes as far as air attainment, water infrastructure, sites being remediated on the Superfund list, and it’s going to be very encouraging.

And for small business, we’ve also done something else. President Bush introduced something, and it actually dates back to the Clinton administration. It was called the Common Sense Initiative. President Bush built on that and called it the sector strategy, where we bring in sectors of our economy—farming and ranching, chemical companies, energy, oil and gas, and others.

We’ve updated that because it went by the wayside under the Obama administration. We’ve revived that and we’ve created something called the smart sector strategy. Those businesses are now dialoguing with us on how we can work together going into the future to achieve better outcomes in the environment.

Bluey: What’s an issue that you are engaged in that isn’t getting the attention it deserves—that you think this audience should know about?

Pruitt: Well, I think one that isn’t talked about a lot is last year Congress adopted some amendments to the Toxics Substances Control Act, TSCA, and created new responsibilities for our agency. For instance, chemicals that enter the flow of commerce, we have to approve those chemical before they enter the stream of commerce.

When I came into this position, we had a backlog of over 700 of those chemicals. We cleared those out by July of this year. We focused resources and we provided certainty to folks across the marketplace on whether those chemicals could be used in an effective way. We’re implementing those changes to TSCA that I think provides certainty to those that are regulated.

There’s great optimism across the country, except in Washington, D.C., so that means things are going really well.

The other area I want to talk about is the Superfund arena. I mentioned the one site in West Lake, Missouri. I’d love to tell you that is an isolated example—that that is just one of many of the 1,336 sites that we regulate. We have many, unfortunately, sites that have languished on that list since inception of the program in the 1980s—sites that been there for decades with respect to no decision and very little action.

The American people deserve, in my view, answers and leadership in how to remediate those sites. That’s the most tangible benefit that we can provide to folks environmentally.

Just recently, San Jacinto, a site in Houston that is off of I-10 in a harbor there, where there is a bunch of barge traffic. There was a site listed around 2009-2010, and it has dioxin on the site. When the hurricane came through there was much concern about the dioxin being released into the barge traffic and it impacting folks’ health. The remedy that has been in place for the past 10 years was literally putting rocks on top of the site to prevent release. It sounds crazy but that’s exactly the case.

When I was there after the storm, I said that is not acceptable. We’re going to make a decision for the betterment of the community to fix that site and provide permanence. Just last week I signed that record decision giving direction on how we are going to provide that relief to prevent the release of dioxin into the water supply in Houston, Texas.

We’ve got to take concrete steps to prevent those environmental issues. We’re doing such good work that no one, I really shouldn’t say no one … folks see it in the communities. There’s great optimism across the country, except in Washington, D.C., so that means things are going really well.

Bluey: Can you describe the shortcomings of the scientific evidence for climate change and the type of data that would be needed to convince you that climate change is happening?

Pruitt: Well, a couple things. Let me address something a little bit big picture and then I’ll get into the specific question.

I have advisory boards at my agency. The CASAC, the science advisory board that advises me on air quality issues. I have BOSC and I have the Science Advisory Board.

The scientists who make up these bodies, and there are dozens and dozens of these folks, over the years those individuals as they’ve served those capacities, guess what has also happened? They’ve received moneys through grants and sometimes substantial moneys through grants.

I think what’s most important at the agencies is to have scientific advisers who are objective, independent minded, providing transparent recommendations to me as the administrator and to our office on the decisions that we’re making on the efficacy of rules that we’re passing to address environmental issues.

If we have individuals that are on those boards that are receiving money from the agency, sometimes going back years and years to the tune of literally tens of millions of dollars, over time, that to me causes questions on the independence and the veracity of the transparency of the recommendations that are coming our way.

Next week, I want you to know something, and I’m not trying to get ahead of myself too much, but next week we are going to fix that. Next week, I am going to issue a directive that addresses just that, that’s much like the sue and settle, to ensure the independence, transparency, and objectivity with respect to the scientific advice that we are getting at the agency.

It’s not a question about whether climate change occurs. It does. It’s not a matter of whether man contributes to it. We do. The question is how much do we contribute to it and how do we measure that with precision?

Now, on this issue with respect to climate change, it’s not a question about whether climate change occurs. It does. It’s not a matter of whether man contributes to it. We do. The question is how much do we contribute to it and how do we measure that with precision? It’s a little bit more difficult questions like when we have individuals telling us in 2017 that they know what the ideal global average surface temperature should be in the year 2100, I think there should be a debate around that. I think there ought to be discussion around that very issue.

There are some, perhaps in this very room that believe that it poses an existential threat. If it poses an existential threat, I want to know. If it’s more important than ISIS and North Korea, I think we better know about it. So let’s have a real, meaningful discussion about it.

The American people deserve, in my view, an objective, transparent, honest discussion about what we know and what we don’t know, with respect to CO2. It’s never taken place. That’s the reason I’ve been proposing a red team, blue team exercise where we bring red team scientists in and blue team scientists in and they would engage in a multi-month process asking of each other these very difficult questions to help inform the American public on these issues to help build consensus toward this very important issue.

The American people deserve, in my view, an objective, transparent, honest discussion about what we know and what we don’t know, with respect to CO2. It’s never taken place.

Here’s the last thing I will say about it. That is a very important exercise and it’s something that Steve Koonin actually published in the Wall Street Journal about three or four months ago. I think it was a well-written piece and you ought to go read it. There’s actually another piece that Bret Stephens wrote in the New York Times about this very issue where politicians have taken information that we know and stretched it so far on this issue that it strains credibility.

We need to have a very honest and open discussion about this as a citizenry and as a country with respect to what we do. But here’s the other thing, what are the tools in the toolbox? That matters. Remember what I said earlier: the only authority I have is the one Congress gives me.

We have to ask and answer the question, What does the Clean Air Act say to this issue as far as regulation of CO2? The last time the Clean Air Act was amended—anyone want to guess when that was? I know you study this every day—1990. Twenty-seven years ago. If you go back and read post the amendments, the Clean Air Act from 1990, Congressman [John] Dingell is not the most conservative member to ever have served in Congress. Congressman Dingell said to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act of 1990 would be a glorious mess. The Clean Air Act was set up to address local and regional air pollutants, not the global phenomena of GHG and CO2.

Where is it in the Clean Air Act that the EPA has the authority to declare war on any sector of our economy? I don’t see it. And that’s what the last administration did. It ended under President Trump.

We have to ask the question, one, What do we know? And let’s inform ourselves about it. But we also have to ask ourselves, What can we do about it and what tools are in the toolbox? I can’t make that up. That’s what the last administration did. When they made it up, they got sued and they got stays of enforcement like the Clean Power Plan, which does not achieve any environmental outcomes and creates uncertainty in the marketplace. It was part of their war on coal, their war on fossil fuels.

I have to ask you a question rhetorically. Where is it in the Clean Air Act that the EPA has the authority to declare war on any sector of our economy? I don’t see it. And that’s what the last administration did. It ended under President Trump.

Bluey: I have a couple of questions about what it’s like to work at EPA headquarters. Specifically, are you running into any internal or political challenges with a staff that might not be willing to carry out the mission you articulated earlier?

Pruitt: Let me say a couple of things. One, having led a business, having been in that space and whatnot, I didn’t start from the premise that folks weren’t willing to be partners. In fact, the very first day I was there, I talked about rule of law and process and federalism, as I indicated to you. But also said to the folks there that I was going to listen and I was going to learn from them, but that we were going to lead, we were going to make decisions.

And so I’ve tried to exercise good will in working with folks. I don’t want people presuming certain things about me that are not based in fact and I shouldn’t presume certain things about others. I’ve tried to lead that way at the agency. That being said, I do think that there is a lack of urgency in some of these areas with respect to Superfund and otherwise, and we’re revitalizing those areas actually. And we’re actually getting the things done that matter and holding folks accountable.

I don’t want people presuming certain things about me that are not based in fact and I shouldn’t presume certain things about others. I’ve tried to lead that way at the agency.

There’s a gentlemen I brought into leadership. He worked for Gov. [Doug] Ducey in Arizona, and I was with Governor Ducey a couple of weeks ago and I thanked him for his contribution. But this individual came to me—he led the [Department of Environmental Quality] there in Arizona, and then he went into the Cabinet under Governor Ducey—and when he came into leadership at the DEQ in Arizona he said, Scott we had over 700 people that we employed and I started focusing on metrics and performance and everyday asking and answering what progress are we making? Are we actually remediating sites? And measuring that every single day. And there were some people in the agency, he said to me, that weren’t into that. They weren’t into accountability. And those folks just kind of left. And at the end of that process, it went from an agency of around 700 to an agency of around 350.

He said Scott, what’s amazing to me is that when that happened we were actually producing better results with the 350, measuring outcomes, than we had with 700. Now, that person is now at the EPA, and I’ve given him a charge. We have a dashboard that we’ve created, a dashboard of measuring results every single day. His name is Henry Darwin, by the way. I call this the ‘Darwin Effect,’ And I say, ‘Henry, how are we progressing today? How are we doing in air quality?’

Let me ask you something, What’s Republican and Democrat about improving air quality? Where’s the political issue around that? Where’s the political issue around avoiding Flint, Michigan, and Gold King, Colorado? Where’s the Republican/Democrat approach to remediating Superfund sites and actually making sure they’re actually reused and communities can enjoy those areas once again?

Their shouldn’t be any political margin on any of those issues. These are not controversial things. We ought to focus on the good work of the agency, respectful of law, engage in partnership. And you know what’s going to happen? Good things. We ought to celebrate that as a country. So the Darwin Effect is in full force and we are going to make sure that we achieve accountability.

Just one other thing—permitting. Permitting has been a big issue with respect to infrastructure. Permitting, sometimes, at our agency, has not been, ‘Is there an issue and how do we fix it?’ It’s been obstructionism. It’s taken a decade, or 12 years or 15 years—and I’m not making this up—where it takes that long to make a decision on a permit. That’s not a decision. That’s simply no, just cloaked in no decision, right?

When I met with Henry, I said, ‘Henry we’ve got to have an outside time where all permits are processed. Let’s establish a timeline that all permits are going to be processed within X number of years or whatever.’ This was one of our first meetings and I decided two years or something; let’s find the right time. He said, Scott, ‘I was thinking more like six months.’ I said, ‘I love you Henry.’ So by the end of 2018, every permit that we issue, up or down, you’re going to know within six months.

Bluey: What has it been like working with President Trump? What can you tell us about it?

Pruitt: It’s been wonderful. As I shared with you earlier, the president is full of courage and he’s full of action. He wants results. That’s what the American people want.

They don’t like all the blather, they don’t like all the labels, they don’t like all the bumper stickers. Let’s actually achieve things. That’s what he’s done his whole life.

[T]he president is full of courage and he’s full of action. He wants results. That’s what the American people want.

I seek every day, and I mean this sincerely, to bless him. I want to bless him and the decisions he’s making. I want to carry out my responsibilities at our agency in a way that is respectful of the things I’ve talked about today. There’s so much optimism across our country—with respect to all the various states and stakeholders that there’s a different trajectory.

You know, several years ago there was a book that I picked up called “The Culture Code.” It’s a book written by a French sociologist, and I don’t normally pick up those books, but this was an interesting book where his business, his career is that he engages in surveys and focus groups. Coca-Cola or IBM will hire him and say, ‘OK, you go out and find the code, the one word that describes my company.’ He did that, that’s his whole career.

He wrote this book and he talks about these various areas, but he spent one entire chapter on America. He surveyed all these people across the country, focus groups, asking questions. He boiled the code word for America down to one word—one word. Anybody want to guess what it is? Dream.

We have nothing to be apologetic about as a country. We’re the best in the world. We feed the world, we power the world. And oh, by the way, when it comes to environmental stewardship, we’re better than anybody else.

And I’ll tell you as a country, we’ve lost that a little bit. We’re a little bit more risk averse than we used to be. We don’t dream and aspire like we used to be. This president is reinvigorating that. This administration is reinvigorating that.

We have nothing to be apologetic about as a country. We’re the best in the world. We feed the world, we power the world. And oh, by the way, when it comes to environmental stewardship, we’re better than anybody else. And that’s the Gospel truth.

Let’s not be apologetic. Let’s lead with action. And that’s what the president is doing. I love serving with him. I love serving him. And there’s much optimism, much hope ahead.

Commentary by Rob Bluey. Originally published at The Daily Signal.

Rolling Back This Obama EPA Scheme Could Save Americans $33 Billion

Reversing an Obama administration energy regulation will save energy companies $33 billion in compliance costs through 2030—costs that would have otherwise been borne by consumers, senior Trump administration officials said in providing details about scrapping the plan.

The Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday proposed to repeal the Clean Power Plan, placing the proposed repeal in the Federal Register and giving stakeholders 60 days to submit public comment.

The Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan aimed to reduce carbon emissions by one-third by 2030. However, it ran into multiple lawsuits from more than 150 entities, including 27 states, 24 trade associations, 37 rural electric cooperatives, and three labor unions, according to the EPA. On top of that, 34 senators and 171 House members filed an amicus briefing arguing the Clean Power Plan was illegal. On Feb. 9, 2016, the Supreme Court halted the implementation of the program.

The Trump administration argues the Obama policy intruded on “cooperative federalism.” Previously, the EPA would set the process for regulating carbon emissions and states would decide on standards and implementation. Under the Obama rule, the EPA decided on state standards and implementation, the Trump EPA contends.

The EPA will review what the next step after the repeal of the rule is and if any further regulation is warranted, according to a summary from the agency. The agency states that the Clean Air Act is a source for authority but is also carefully crafted to limit what the agency does.

On March 28, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to establish a national policy on energy independence. The executive order was to promote the developing U.S. energy sources and reduce regulation. That day, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt signed four Federal Register notices in response to the executive order that included a review of the Clean Power Plan.

On Monday, Pruitt was in coal country in Hazard, Kentucky to announce the plan to roll back the regulation, where he reportedly said, “The war on coal is over. … I’ll be signing a proposed rule to withdraw the so-called Clean Power Plan of the past administration and thus begin the effort to withdraw that rule.”

The environmental lobby reacted angrily, as Greenpeace Climate Director Kelly Mitchell called Pruitt “a dangerously corrupt fossil fuel errand boy” in a prepared statement.

“Pruitt is trying to gut the EPA’s Supreme Court-confirmed power to regulate dangerous climate pollution so these same companies can avoid accountability for fueling climate chaos,” Mitchell said. “Fortunately, utilities, cities, Fortune 500 companies, and people around the world are all moving towards renewable energy despite Scott Pruitt’s cynical attempt to delay the inevitable.”

Report by Fred Lucas. Originally published at The Daily Signal.