Kelly Armstrong: Senator Heitkamp Should Vote for Pruitt to Head the EPA

Senator Heidi Heitkamp in 2014. File photo. Dave Wallis / The Forum

Over the past eight years, few states have witnessed both the extraordinary potential of the American energy economy and the devastating effects of an out of control Environmental Protection Agency as North Dakota. Sadly, the Obama administration and their extreme environmentalist allies have sought to use federal power to ramrod through a radical environmental agenda that stifles American energy production while imposing unnecessary mandates on states which increase consumer costs. This is a major reason why Donald Trump won North Dakota more than two to one, and it’s why Senator Heidi Heitkamp must vote to confirm his nominee for EPA administrator, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt.

Attorney General Pruitt is the perfect choice to rein in EPA overreach and restore the agency to its original mission of working with states to protect our water, air and lands. In recent years, however, bureaucrats in Washington have been dictating to the states.

For instance, North Dakota’s Attorney General Wayne Stenejhem joined dozens of other state attorneys general, including Pruitt, to sue the EPA to stop the so-called Clean Power Plan. The CCP was an overt attempt by President Obama’s EPA to override the express wishes of Congress and impose on North Dakota a draconian mandate that would have devastating effects on our state’s coal industry as well as on consumer electricity prices. Thankfully, in response to their lawsuit, the U.S. Supreme Court stepped in to halt enforcement of the plan.

A 2012 U.S. Chamber of Commerce study revealed that the EPA’s plan to takeover North Dakota’s regional haze program would require us to shut down all industry in the state in order to meet its mandates. Even though our state was already just one of 12 that achieved all of EPA’s air quality standards, the new rule would have cost North Dakotans $13 million per year.

But that’s just one example. A 2012 U.S. Chamber of Commerce study revealed that the EPA’s plan to takeover North Dakota’s regional haze program would require us to shut down all industry in the state in order to meet its mandates. Even though our state was already just one of 12 that achieved all of EPA’s air quality standards, the new rule would have cost North Dakotans $13 million per year.

The list goes on. Last spring a North Dakota federal judge shot down the EPA’s attempt to usurp state and local authority over vast swaths of land under the Clean Water Act through the so-called “Waters of the United States” rule. The rule went so far as to threaten federal regulation of every prairie pothole which is it was vigorously opposed by the North Dakota Farm Bureau whose public policy director said it was a “clear assault on state sovereignty, municipal jurisdiction, and private property rights.”

That’s why it is so important that the EPA be led by someone who understands that the EPA must work with states, not against them, to achieve environmental progress. As a state attorney general, Scott Pruitt values cooperative federalism and states rights. He knows what is good for Oklahoma may not be good for North Dakota. And, as an expert in constitutional law, he knows that the EPA is supposed to execute rules and regulations consistent with laws passed by Congress, not make up new laws out of thin cloth. For his deep respect for the rule of law, whether it agrees with his personal perspective or not, Scott Pruitt has earned bipartisan respect.

Most importantly, General Pruitt knows that environmental protection need not come at the expense of job creation. Prosperous countries have the cleanest, healthiest environments. It is counterproductive for us to stifle economic growth in the name of environmental protection. As we know in North Dakota, we can have both.

It’s time for a change at the EPA, and Scott Pruitt is just the person to bring the agency under control, restore a balanced approach, and repair the broken relationship between the agency and the states. Sen. Heitkamp should listen to her constituents and support his speedy confirmation.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and the host of the Rob (Re)Port on Fargo-based WDAY AM970 from noon-2pm weekdays.

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