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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Pruitt turns the EPA into an industry protection agency

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt attends a meeting at

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt attends a meeting at the White House in Washington on Feb. 12. Credit: AP / Carolyn Kaster

Say what you wish about Scott Pruitt’s leadership of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. He has faithfully executed the agenda to which the White House is committed.

Far from being captured by career professionals in his agency, Pruitt is derailing as promised the accustomed EPA mission.

Weeks ago he won warm applause at a conservative political dinner by condemning the pre-Trump EPA as “weaponized against certain sectors of the economy.”

Pruitt pushed for U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate accord and defended the departure once carried out.

He refused to accept scientists’ findings that carbon dioxide from human activity largely drives climate change.

His actions were deemed significant enough for Harvard University Law School to create an online “rollback tracker” for environmental regulations.

Pruitt’s highest-profile policy move may yet be the effort to ease up on emission standards for automobiles.

He has earned what could be considered a badge of honor in the administration through a surge in open-records lawsuits against his agency and secrecy about meetings and decisions.

Unpopular and regressive as critics deem his policies, Pruitt persists in what he set out to do — change EPA into something more aptly named the Industrial Protection Agency.

Reports that Pruitt paid below-market rates to live in a condo owned by a lobbyist who deals with issues overseen by his agency threatened trouble and led to speculation he’d be fired.

The to-do was about his room rental in a Capitol Hill neighborhood condo building co-owned by energy industry lobbyist Steven Hart and his wife. Hart represents an Oklahoma energy company; Pruitt was the state’s attorney general. The Harts gave him campaign contributions before his current job.

Even if these optics are now said to vex White House officials, Pruitt’s support for the fossil fuel industry was well known — and more likely than not a plus in President Donald Trump’s nomination of him.

Team Trump knew what they were getting. While Oklahoma’s top lawyer, Pruitt sued to fight EPA limits on mercury pollution, new national park protections, and a dozen other Obama-era measures.

One question is whether a sweetheart lease, fat taxpayer perks or internal EPA chaos would dislodge him from this anti-regulatory mission. As of Friday, Trump publicly defended Pruitt while word leaked out that chief of staff John Kelly urged his removal to Trump.

A related question is whether it is realistic to expect the head of an ideological demolition crew such as Pruitt to fuss over the fine points of governmental protocol and ethics. That might be like demanding the oil industry function without creating any pollution at all.

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