EPA chief unveils agenda for 2018

EPA chief Scott Pruitt outlined the Trump administration environmental agenda to Reuters.  It includes a welcome roll-back in Obama-era carbon and clean water regulations, as well as the novel idea of sponsoring a national debate on climate change.

"The climate is changing.  That's not the debate.  The debate is how do we know what the ideal surface temperature is in 2100? ... I think the American people deserve an open[,] honest[,] transparent discussion about those things," said Pruitt, who has frequently cast doubt on the causes and implications of global warming.

Pruitt reaffirmed plans for the EPA to host a public debate on climate science sometime this year that would pit climate change[-]doubters against other climate scientists, but he provided no further details on timing or which scientists would be involved.

Pruitt said among the EPA's top priorities for 2018 will be to replace the Clean Power Plan, former President Barack Obama's centerpiece climate change regulation which would have slashed carbon emissions from power plants.  The EPA began the process of rescinding the regulation last year and is taking input on what should replace it.

"A proposed rule will come out this year and then a final rule will come out sometime this year," he said.  He did not give any details on what the rule could look like, saying the agency was still soliciting comments from stakeholders.

He said the agency was also planning to rewrite the Waters of the United States rule, another Obama-era regulation, this one defining which U.S. waterways are protected under federal law.  Pruitt and Trump have said the rule marked an overreach by including streams that are shallow, narrow, or sometimes completely dry – and was choking off energy development.

Rewriting the "Waters of the United States" rules is a no-brainer.  Obama issued the regulations in the closing weeks of his administration, and it rapidly became the poster child for massive bureaucratic overreach.  It was a power-grab by an agency known for power-grabs.

Ditching the carbon regulations promulgated by the Obama administration is going to be more difficult but is welcome news for energy-producers.  The massive paperwork burden of those rules would have added billions to the cost of getting fossil fuels out of the ground.

But it's the idea of holding a national debate on climate change that is perhaps the most original idea that the EPA has come up with in a long time.  The question that needs to be asked is whether it's possible for climate change hysterics and climate change skeptics to engage in any kind of dialogue.  Given the hostility of the hysterics toward any questioning of their position, a debate would appear to be a useless gesture.

Still, there is growing skepticism among climate change advocates about the pace of global warming and a realization that man's role in the Earth's warming has been overstated.  And the global warming skeptics recognize that the Earth is, indeed, warming, although, as Mr. Pruitt suggested, not enough is known about the issue to justify the massive changes suggested by hysterics. 

In any national debate, the two sides are likely to talk past each other.  But getting them to appear in the same forum is a start and, perhaps, the beginning of a return to sanity in climate science.

The agenda laid out by Pruitt is ambitious and hopefully only the beginning in his effort to rein in an agency that under both Republican and Democratic administrations expanded its reach and power to place unnecessary burdens on the economy and people.

EPA chief Scott Pruitt outlined the Trump administration environmental agenda to Reuters.  It includes a welcome roll-back in Obama-era carbon and clean water regulations, as well as the novel idea of sponsoring a national debate on climate change.

"The climate is changing.  That's not the debate.  The debate is how do we know what the ideal surface temperature is in 2100? ... I think the American people deserve an open[,] honest[,] transparent discussion about those things," said Pruitt, who has frequently cast doubt on the causes and implications of global warming.

Pruitt reaffirmed plans for the EPA to host a public debate on climate science sometime this year that would pit climate change[-]doubters against other climate scientists, but he provided no further details on timing or which scientists would be involved.

Pruitt said among the EPA's top priorities for 2018 will be to replace the Clean Power Plan, former President Barack Obama's centerpiece climate change regulation which would have slashed carbon emissions from power plants.  The EPA began the process of rescinding the regulation last year and is taking input on what should replace it.

"A proposed rule will come out this year and then a final rule will come out sometime this year," he said.  He did not give any details on what the rule could look like, saying the agency was still soliciting comments from stakeholders.

He said the agency was also planning to rewrite the Waters of the United States rule, another Obama-era regulation, this one defining which U.S. waterways are protected under federal law.  Pruitt and Trump have said the rule marked an overreach by including streams that are shallow, narrow, or sometimes completely dry – and was choking off energy development.

Rewriting the "Waters of the United States" rules is a no-brainer.  Obama issued the regulations in the closing weeks of his administration, and it rapidly became the poster child for massive bureaucratic overreach.  It was a power-grab by an agency known for power-grabs.

Ditching the carbon regulations promulgated by the Obama administration is going to be more difficult but is welcome news for energy-producers.  The massive paperwork burden of those rules would have added billions to the cost of getting fossil fuels out of the ground.

But it's the idea of holding a national debate on climate change that is perhaps the most original idea that the EPA has come up with in a long time.  The question that needs to be asked is whether it's possible for climate change hysterics and climate change skeptics to engage in any kind of dialogue.  Given the hostility of the hysterics toward any questioning of their position, a debate would appear to be a useless gesture.

Still, there is growing skepticism among climate change advocates about the pace of global warming and a realization that man's role in the Earth's warming has been overstated.  And the global warming skeptics recognize that the Earth is, indeed, warming, although, as Mr. Pruitt suggested, not enough is known about the issue to justify the massive changes suggested by hysterics. 

In any national debate, the two sides are likely to talk past each other.  But getting them to appear in the same forum is a start and, perhaps, the beginning of a return to sanity in climate science.

The agenda laid out by Pruitt is ambitious and hopefully only the beginning in his effort to rein in an agency that under both Republican and Democratic administrations expanded its reach and power to place unnecessary burdens on the economy and people.