Governors, state AGs ask EPA head Pruitt to scale back federal overreach

By Johnny Kampis  /

Photo Courtesy Oklahoma AG website

STATES’ RIGHTS ADVOCATE: As Oklahoma Attorney General, Scott Pruitt testified in front of Congress and defended the state’s ability to fight EPA regulations. Now as head of the EPA, his former attorney general peers are asking for his help in reining in federal overreach.

Twenty attorneys general and governors are asking new Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt to rein in what they perceive as federal overreach by the agency under the Obama administration.

In a letter sent Tuesday, the state officials, all Republicans, said the “extensive regulation” by the EPA in the past decade “is directly at odds with the express terms and structure of the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act.”

They said those acts designate state and local governments as the primary environment regulators, noting the first section of the Clean Air Act states “air pollution prevention … and air pollution control at its source is the primary responsibility of States and local governments.”

The act envisions a collaborative arrangement between the states and federal government, they said, using such terms as “assist,” “promote” and “encourage.” The letter writers argue the EPA has replaced those words with command and commandeer, providing an example from Texas. That state developed what they called a reasonable plan to combat regional haze, but it was rejected by the EPA. The agency then imposed a plan that would have cost Texas $2 billion to implement. A federal court rejected that plan.

In a separate statement, Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, one of the letter’s signers, said the EPA has been at odds with states for years.

“The EPA has not been ‘assisting’ Missouri,” Hawley said. “It has been overregulating our farmers and ranchers without authority from Congress. Worse, its unauthorized actions are undermining Missouri’s ability to conserve and manage our state’s natural resources. It is time for the EPA to start obeying federal law and cooperating with the states to manage the water, air, and other resources so critical to our citizens.”

The state officials ask Pruitt in the letter to “consider the steps that the Agency may take to restore the principles of cooperative federalism embodied in these important statutes.”

CEI photo

CEI photo EBELL: Pruitt likely to agree with his fellow Republicans, but change will take time.

Myron Ebell, director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, told the letter is justified, and timely, with the departure of the former Democratic administration.

“Even as bad as the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts are in terms of overregulation, the Obama administration has essentially treated states as serfs,” he said.

Ebell suspects the letter will be received well, given that Pruitt shared similar sentiments as attorney general of Oklahoma and head of the National Association of Attorneys General.

“He’s been making the same points for years,” he said. “I suspect he will feel very sympathetic to what they’re saying.”

But that doesn’t mean a quick reversal of EPA policies, Ebell said, nothing that while President Trump’s cabinet is coming into place at a relatively rapid pace, it’s taking awhile to get the various assistant secretaries and administrators in place.

“It will take awhile for Scott Pruitt to turn the ship around and head in the other direction, but I think he will be on board,” Ebell said.

Johnny Kampis reports on national issues for Contact him at and on Twitter.

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