By Michael Brooks
WASHINGTON — EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt on Thursday confirmed that the agency is working on a replacement to the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan.
The revelation came in response to a question from Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.) at a House Environment Subcommittee hearing on the agency’s activities. Pruitt had previously only committed to considering a replacement plan.
Ruiz had asked whether EPA had relied on any new peer-reviewed studies on pollution to support the proposed repeal of the CPP, criticizing Pruitt for reversing the agency’s stance on climate pollution.
Pruitt denied that he had. “Moreover, we are going to be introducing a replacement rule too,” he said.
His statement came at the very end of an hourlong session of the subcommittee in which he answered questions from six members before he left to attend a meeting with President Trump.
Pruitt would return three hours later to resume the hearing, but no subcommittee members followed up on his statement regarding replacement of the CPP or pressed for details about a new plan. Instead, the members’ questions covered a wide array of topics, including Superfund sites, pesticides, water quality, vehicle emissions and fuel standards, hurricane recovery and Pruitt’s frequent travel to his home state of Oklahoma. Pruitt declined to take questions from reporters after the hearing.
He also gave no indication of plans to overturn the agency’s endangerment finding on carbon dioxide.
Earlier in the morning session, Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) encouraged Pruitt to revisit the finding, which both agreed EPA had rushed to put out in 2009 in the wake of Massachusetts v. EPA, the Supreme Court decision confirming the agency’s authority to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant.
Pruitt also said that he is still working on a “red team/blue team” debate regarding the science of climate change and hoped to announce it at the beginning of next year “at the latest.”
“I think one of the most important things we can do for the American people is provide that type of discussion, because it hasn’t happened at the agency,” Pruitt told Barton. “We need to ensure that type of discussion occurs, and it occurs in a way that the American people know that an objective, transparent review has taken place.”
Thursday’s hearing was predictably partisan in nature. Pruitt received a warm welcome and pats on the back from Republicans, who praised his work at the agency and his so-called “back to basics” approach. Democrats, on the other hand, lambasted him for his rollback of numerous Obama-era regulations, including the CPP.
Many of Pruitt’s answers mirrored those he gave at his Senate confirmation hearing in January. He talked about the importance of the “rule of law” and process, saying EPA had overstepped its bounds under President Barack Obama. (See Dems Unmoved by EPA Pick’s Charm Offensive.)
On Wednesday, EPA announced that it would hold three additional hearings on the CPP after what Pruitt called “the overwhelming response” to the agency’s hearing in Charlestown, W.Va. (See No Unanimity in ‘Coal Country’ Hearing on CPP Repeal.) The agency said the hearings will be in San Francisco, Kansas City, Mo., and Gillette, Wyo., though it did not provide specific dates or venue locations.