On the EPA: Stay on Target!

There’s an old saying that when you’re taking a lot of flak, you know you’re over the target. Right now this explains the liberal/media freakout about EPA administrator Scott Pruitt. Pruitt is systematically dismantling the legacy of decades of egregious bureaucratic overreach by the EPA, including ending the corrupt “sue-and-settle” practice, stopping the practice of refusing to share raw data with outside researchers that bear on multi-hundred-billion dollar regulatory schemes, and deep-sixing the so-called “Clean Power Plan,” which was likely to fail in federal court anyway. (This week’s sensible decision to rescind the Obama new car fuel economy requirements is being completely misreported, of course, but that subject will require a separate post.)

The height of irony is Obama’s EPA head Gina McCarthy complaining that Pruitt is using the very same powers that she used—the administrator’s prerogative to decide policy. Here’s McCarthy’s complaint to the NY Times:

Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, has announced that he alone will decide what is and isn’t acceptable science for the agency to use when developing policies that affect your health and the environment.

And just who was it who set up the EPA administrator with such plenipotentiary powers? That’s right: liberals did (to be sure, with the foolish acquiescence of Republicans a long time ago), because they understood that the bureaucracy could be transformed into a partisan tool to achieve their ends, all the better if single administrators were given lots of power and didn’t have much political accountability even inside their own agency. When I suggested in the Wall Street Journal back in 2013 that the EPA ought to be made into a five-member commission like similar regulatory agencies that observe the need to reflect the partisan divisions in the country over policy, environmentalists howled in protest that my idea would “cripple the agency!” Well, just now I expect they’d rather prefer my idea to Administrator Pruitt.

Pruitt’s changes are long overdue, and as in so many other ideas, no previous Republican administration has seen fit to attempt any of these essential reforms. The last President Bush gave us Christine Todd Whitman as head of the EPA, who was a fluffy lapdog for the EPA bureaucracy. Anyone think President Jeb Bush would have given us Scott Pruitt?  (And let’s recall who promoted Gina McCarthy in Massachusetts’s state environmental bureaucracy before she went to work for Obama: a governor named Romney.)

The Pruitt news-storm is obviously not a coincidence or a spontaneous interest: the Environmental-Industrial Complex is geared up into full battle mode, and is undoubtedly funneling pre-packaged attack stories to sympathetic producers, reporters, and editorial writers. This is a cage match that isn’t going to go away. A lot of congressional Republicans may get cold feet, and if Democrats take the House in November, Pruitt can expect to be appearing before House committees every day. The media may well contrive a scandal. But in the meantime, this old scene from Star Wars comes to mind:

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