The extremism of the Obama Administration’s environmental ideology has been a disaster for American consumers.
In particular, the Environmental Protection Agency has worked overtime – as a matter of policy – to increase the cost of energy to American consumers. Energy development and supply has been stifled without serious regard for science, economics, or the consequences for consumers.
In the zealous pursuit of this agenda, the Obama Administration has routinely and unconstitutionally abused its executive authority to the detriment of good government and consumer welfare. It has operated as if possessing royal authority and the American people were subjects, not citizens.
For example, over the past several years, ensuring the safe and cost-effective transporting of oil and natural gas to market has been held hostage to activists whose motivations are not cost and safety, but denial.
Likewise, the Clean Power Plan, the signature piece of energy regulation enacted during the Obama Administration, threatens a significant increase in price and a reduction in reliability of electricity to consumers.
This costly monstrosity was never directly debated in a congressional hearing before its enactment, nor was it voted on by Congress. The Clean Power Plan seeks to force states to comply rather than encourage cooperation with federal initiatives. It pushes existing utilities into failure and requires states to bear the burden of replacing them.
The EPA’s regulatory excesses have not been confined to the energy sector.
The agency is also trying to give itself more power to control private property by redefining the Clean Water Act’s meaning of “navigable” water. American farmers, ranchers, and small business owners have been the target of aggressive regulators wielding thousands of pages of impenetrable regulations backed up with threats of criminal sanctions, massive fines, and potential bankruptcy. In some cases, common sense has been effectively outlawed and honest men and women made criminals.
It’s no wonder, then, that so many voters expressed their frustration with Washington by electing an outsider who promised to drain the swamp. (That phrase must upset the folks at the EPA – they prefer “wetland.”) In the process, voters defeated the environmental ideologues running the EPA.
The results so far should have consumers feeling optimistic. President-elect Trump’s nominee for Administrator of the EPA, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, is ideally suited to bring that out-of-control agency back to its lawful, core mission.
Pruitt will bring the common-sense approach to environmental protection that has been missing for the past eight years. His commitment to the rule of law will also ensure that agency operates within the law – and does not make up the law.
Effective and reasonable policies and regulations to protect our air, land, and water need not make producers criminals and consumers unindicted co-conspirators. While it is often noted that all government policies and actions require trade-offs, there is no reason environmental regulation should be approached as a zero-sum endeavor where all protection of the environmental comes at the expense of the consumer. Reasonable people understand this, and Scott Pruitt is a reasonable person.
Pruitt will find a handful of controversial issues awaiting him. Fortunately, he is committed to having a fact-based regulatory approach. In the case of petroleum transportation, study after study has shown pipelines are both cheaper and safer than utilizing trains and trucks. Ending EPA intransigence on pipeline approvals should be a priority.
Pruitt must also abandon the new Waters of the United States rule, which a federal court has temporarily blocked – thanks to a legal challenge led by Pruitt himself.
As for the Clean Power Plan, that was suspended by the Supreme Court pending further litigation thanks to yet another legal effort initiated by Pruitt.
The EPA is one of the most consequential agencies in government for American consumers. It has wide-ranging influence on the price and availability of energy, food, transportation, and even housing – all the basic consumer necessities.
As Administrator, Scott Pruitt will lead the effort to quickly end the unconstitutional regulatory nightmares created by Obama’s EPA and get on with the business of common-sense regulation that serves everyone.
The Senate should confirm him with all deliberate speed.
Joseph Colangelo is Executive Director of Consumers' Research, the nation's oldest consumer-focused organization. Joseph grew up in Northern New Jersey and attended U.C. Berkeley on a Naval ROTC scholarship where he graduated with a Bachelor’s of Arts with a concentration in Political Science.