Pruitt discusses WOTUS with Minnesota ag leaders

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt expressed his department’s support for agriculture during a round-table discussion Wednesday hosted by AgriGrowth at the Securian Center in St. Paul.

“We see you as partners, not your adversaries,” Pruitt told about 25 Minnesota ag representatives. “To say that farmers, who are the stewards of their land, don’t take care of the land is a D.C. mindset.” 

Pruitt visited Minnesota during a multi-state tour to explain the EPA’s recent proposal to rescind the Clean Water Rule and re-codify the regulatory text that existed prior to the 2015 defining “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS). 

“What the (2015) ruling did was give the EPA authority to make judgment calls,” Pruitt says. “I believe the Wall Street Journal said this, but we want to be ‘Peer-reviewed, not pal-reviewed.'”

The review comes on the heels of President Donald Trump’s February executive order reviewing WOTUS, ensuring pollution control and promoting economic growth. Pruitt says the proposed rule would be in accordance with Supreme Court decisions, agency guidelines and longstanding practices. 

“We as an agency can’t make it up as we go along,” Pruitt says. “That’s what the last administration did. … WOTUS was so extreme.” 

Pruitt says he favors a more narrow definition of public waters as part of the EPA’s “back to basics” approach. 

“The rule created uncertainty as applied,” he says. “The EPA shouldn’t be an ebb-and-flow (agency). Science should be independent…This is the first in a two-step process to redefine WOTUS. It’s something that has to be fixed.” 

Pruitt railed against the agency’s role in regulatory oversights during previous administrations.

“We want to get to truth and data,” he says. “We want objective science driving our decisions.”

A diehard baseball fan, Pruitt labeled his agency in the beginning months of his tenure a “rookie ball” organization that is “batting .100.” 

“We’re getting vertical with the EPA,” he says. “That’s revolutionary at the EPA. The agency hasn’t done things on time. Everything wrong with regulatory power, we’re the poster child.” 

Later in the discussion, Pruitt indicated an interest in participating in an aerial tour of the Red River Valley.

Pruitt anticipates the EPA will releases its final ruling on WOTUS in the first quarter of 2018. 

“We’re going to get rid of the bad rules,” he says. “Then we’re going to do our job.”