By Tim Pearce
Four Democratic senators are demanding Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt recuse himself from repealing a former President Barack Obama-era regulation placing significant burdens on fossil fuel energy providers, The Washington Post reports.
Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Brian Schatz of Hawaii together submitted a comment to the EPA Wednesday on repealing the Clean Power Plan (CPP). The group of Democratic lawmakers claim that Pruitt’s bias toward the CPP — he sued the EPA four times over his term as attorney general of Oklahoma — prevents him from making a fair judgement.
“The evidence for Pruitt’s inalterably closed mind on CPP rulemaking is overwhelming,” the senators wrote, according to The Hill. “It falls into three categories: (1) his deep and wide financial ties to the fossil fuel industry which is ferociously opposed to the CPP; (2) his status as a previous petitioner suing the EPA to block the CPP; and (3) his numerous statements denouncing the CPP, questioning the ability to regulate carbon emissions under the [Clean Air Act] as the CPP proposes to do, and casting doubt on climate science.”
The lawmakers request follows similar comments filed by environmental groups and left-leaning states and cities in January.
“A private citizen (or even a state attorney general) has the luxury of making up his mind and never changing course,” 19 states and cities wrote, according to E&E News. “The decision maker in an administrative proceeding, however, does not.”
Obama’s administration finalized the CPP, an addition to the Clean Air Act, in 2015. The regulation was meant to curb carbon emissions from fossil fuel energy plants in order to hit emissions targets the United States agreed to in the Paris climate accord. It also mandated a shift from coal-fired power plants to renewable energy.
The Supreme Court blocked the CPP February in a 5-4 decision. The “surprise” decision signified serious flaws in the regulation, Case Western Reserve School of Law Professor Jonathan Adler told Reuters.
President Donald Trump announced he was pulling the U.S. out of the Paris agreement in June, and Pruitt and the EPA proposed repealing the CPP about three months later. Repealing the regulation could save $33 billion in compliance costs by 2030, according to the EPA.
“The Obama administration pushed the bounds of their authority so far with the CPP that the Supreme Court issued a historic stay of the rule, preventing its devastating effects to be imposed on the American people while the rule is being challenged in court,” Pruitt said in a statement. “With this action, the Trump administration is respecting states’ role and reinstating transparency into how we protect our environment.”