President Donald Trump's administration will begin rolling back Obama-era environmental regulations in an "aggressive way" as soon as next week, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency said Saturday — adding that he understood why some Americans wanted to see his agency eliminated.
"I think there are some regulations that in the near term need to be rolled back in a very aggressive way. And I think maybe next week you may be hearing about some of those," EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt told the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington.
Pruitt added that the EPA's focus on combating climate change under former President Barack Obama had cost jobs and prevented economic growth, leading many Americans to want to see the EPA eliminated.
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"I think it's justified," he said. "I think people across this country look at the EPA much like they look at the IRS [Internal Revenue Service]. I hope to be able to change that."
Pruitt was confirmed as EPA head last week. His appointment triggered an uproar among Democratic lawmakers and environmental advocates worried that he will gut the agency and reopen the doors to heavy industrial pollution. He sued the EPA more than a dozen times as his state's top attorney and has repeatedly cast doubt on the science of climate change.
But his rise to the head of the EPA has also cheered many Republicans and business interests that expect him to cut back red tape they believe has hampered the economy.
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Trump campaigned on a promise to slash regulation to revive the oil and gas drilling and coal mining industries.
Pruitt mentioned three rules ushered in by Obama that could meet the chopping block early on: the Waters of the U.S. rule outlining waterways that have federal protections; the Clean Power Plan requiring states to cut carbon emissions; and the U.S. Methane rule limiting emissions from oil and gas installations on federal land.
A Trump official told Reuters late Friday that the president was expected to sign a measure as early as Tuesday aimed at rescinding the Waters of the U.S. rule.
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Pruitt said in his comments to the CPAC summit that the rule had "made puddles and dry creek beds across this country subject to the jurisdiction of Washington, D.C. That's going to change." He also suggested longer-term structural changes were in store at the EPA.
"Long term, asking the question on how that agency partners with the states and how that affects the budget and how it affects the structure is something to work on very diligently," Pruitt said.
Like Trump, he said cutting regulation could be done in a way that does not harm water or air quality.