Washington, February 22 – EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt addressed employees in the United States Environment Protection Agency yesterday morning for the first time. His speech was spectacular and marks a giant change in the approach of this important federal agency towards regulation. Every regulatory agency in the federal government, in any state government, and in local governments should read Pruitt’s speech carefully. It’s a sign of great changes to come.
Every single employee of the Montgomery County, Texas, government, should read this speech. County Judge Craig Doyal, Commissioners Mike Meador, Charlie Riley, James Noack, and Jim Clark should read this speech. Every County Department head should read this speech. Every citizen interested in or involved in trying to reform government should read this speech.
Transcript of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s Speech, EPA Headquarters, February 21, 2017:
Thanks, (Catherine). Thank you so much. Well, thank you, (Catherine), it’s been a joy to meet (Catherine) today and spend some time with her and I do thank you for the hat. I am excited about being in a city that actually has a Major League Baseball team because that’s going to be exciting to be able to exit the – you know, in the evening and enjoy some good baseball.
And I’ll make sure that I wear this hat as we attend those games. And the parent club of my AAA team was the Texas Rangers and so they’re an American league. We’re going to be OK to cheer for the Nationals here in the National League, so excited about that. It’s been an honor and a joy to be with you this morning. I got a chance to meet some of you and it’s an honor and a joy to be with you in this setting.
And as I spent time with you this morning, it was something that was abundantly clear to me that you love what you do. There’s an old saying that if you love what you do, you never work a day in your life and I want to say thank you to (Catherine), I want to say thank you to her for her leadership in the last month or so. It took us a little while to get here so I was thankful for her leadership during that timeframe.
But I want to say thank you to each of the (current) individuals that have been serving this agency for quite some time. Most of the people I met this morning, I think the least amount of years that I heard was 19 years. That’s quite something. That says a lot about the mission of the agency and the people that are here. And I want to commend you for your service to this country and service to this agency and thank you for that.
You know, I know it’s very difficult to capture in one speech the vision and direction of an agency and I also recognize that you don’t know me very well. In fact, you don’t know me hardly at all other than maybe what you’ve read in the newspaper and seen on the news and I might suggest to you that just like (Paul Harvey) used to say, I look forward to sharing the rest of the story with you as we spend time together.
But this is a beginning. It’s a beginning for us to spend time and discuss certain principles by which I think this agency should conduct itself and I look forward to leading this agency with these following principles in mind. There was a book several years ago that I read called founding brothers. I don’t know if you’ve had the pleasure of reading that book, it’s actually a book by (Joseph Ellis), an historian from the University of Vermont.
And it’s a book about a series of historical encounters with the founding generation and there’s one particular chapter called the dinner, a historical vignette that took place between Thomas Jefferson and James Madison and Alexander Hamilton. And the dinner took place as a result of something that was going on in Congress in 1790. It was a very difficult and challenging issue called the Assumption Bill.
As you know as the colonies came out of the revolutionary war, the (eventual) states, there was tremendous debt that the states had incurred and they could not pay the debt. And Alexander Hamilton had a wonderful idea, he thought. He thought this new found federal government should assume that debt, consolidate all that debt and seek to pay it off, in behalf of the states.
Well that caused certain individuals like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison to be concerned. To be concerned about the role of this federal government and the new found responsibilities that it might have and so there was intractability around some very important issues debt, the role between the federal government and the states. This sounds a little bit like today.
And they did something though that doesn’t happen very much today. They actually got together. They actually spent time together. You know this environment that we live in this country today, it is a very, forgive the reference, but it’s a very toxic environment.
We have jerseys that we put on, both politically and otherwise. And that’s something that I think is damaging to the overall objective of finding results and answers to some very challenging issues that we face as a country.
But as they get together for dinner and they dealt with this very difficult of challenge of assuming debt and this idea that Alexander Hamilton had, they were able to work out a solution. And if you don’t know, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson said we’ll let the bill go forward in congress, but in exchange we want something. We want the capital of the United States government to be moved from New York City to the shores of the Potomac, near the homeland of Virginia. And we have the U.S. capital in Washington D.C. today largely because of a dinner that took place between those three gentleman.
Now I share that with you for these reasons. As far as principles that are important as we do our work together and as we journey together. One they lead. They actually found solutions. They worked to be problem solvers. They didn’t shirk their responsibility; they took that very difficult challenge that they faced in 1790 and said we will do our job and find an answer to this challenge.
And as we do our work here, we deal with very important monumental issues with respect to our future environment and our natural resources. And we must have the same kind of attitude of finding answers, being problems solvers, and making decisions and leading to make those decisions.
Secondly and I think this is in short supply in this country today. They acted with civility. And civility is something that I believe in very much. You know we ought to be able to get together and wrestle through some very difficult issues and do so in a civil manner. We ought to be able to be thoughtful and exchange ideas and engage in debate and make sure that we do find answers to these problems but do so with civility. And I think that was exemplified in this story that I shared with you from founding brothers.
But thirdly, and this was something that I mentioned to (Catherine) this morning and as I met with some of you, that have been for some time I mentioned you as well, I seek to be a good listener.
Those of you that have been here for quite some time, whether it’s in air area or water or whatever area that you may be in, I look forward to spending time with you. Not just to get to – get – get to address certain issues, but really spend time and dig down deep with respect to how we’re going to do business in the future, and get to know you personally and how I can be a resource to you as you do your work.
And, I think that the story of listening, you can’t lead unless you listen. I – I seek to listen, learn, and lead with you to address these issues that we face as a nation. Now, there’s a second book that I’ve read, and I’ve read more than two, but these – these – these two books are two of my favorites.
The second book that I would highlight for you that kind of bookends our discussion this morning is a book that came out a couple years ago called Inventing Freedom. It’s a wonderful book about the uniqueness of the American experiment, about the uniqueness of how we do business as a country.
And so these general principles of civility, finding answers, making sure that we listen to one another as we solve problems, I think those are general principles that we should keep in mind.
That – I’d like to share two or three others with you that I think are equally important, that – that kind of flowed from this book, Inventing Freedom, about the impertinence and the uniqueness of the American experiment.
One is, is that process matters. You know, this – this is not going to sound earth shattering to you, but – but I think it’s very important to say, Regulations ought to make things regular. Regulators exist to give certainty to those that they regulate.
Those that we regulate ought to know what’s expected of them, so that they can plan and allocate resources to comply; that’s really the job of a regulator. And – and the process that we engage in, in adopting regulations, is very, very important because it sends a message.
It sends a message that we take seriously our role of taking comment and – and offering response and then making informed decisions on how it’s going to impact those in the marketplace to achieve the ends that we have in statute.
So, process matters and we should respect that and focus upon that and try to avoid – not try to avoid, but do avoid abuses that occur sometimes. Guidance through – through making – or using the guidance process to do rule making, or engaging in litigation — regulation through litigation, consent decrees that actually bypass the Administrator’s Procedures Act.
We need to be open and transparent and objective in how we do rule making and make sure that we follow the letter of the law as we do so because that will send, I think, a great message to those that are regulated, but more importantly, they will know what’s expected of them and they can act accordingly.
Which leads me to the second point. Rule of law — as we do rule making, as we engage in process it needs to be tethered to the (statute). The only authority that any agency has, in the Executive Branch, is the authority given to it by Congress. Sometimes those authorities are broadly stated, getting much discretion to an agency to engage in the authority given to it, granted.
But other times, other times, Congress has been be very prescriptive. It’s been very specific on what we can and cannot do as an agency. We need to respect that. We need to follow that because when we do that, guess what happens? We avoid litigation, we avoid the uncertainty of litigation, and we reach better ends and outcomes at the end of the day.
And the third thing with respect to this process and rule of law is that (federalism) matters; (federalism) matters. And as you know, because you (dove) these issues for a number of years, Congress has been very prescriptive in providing, in many instances, a very robust role, an important role of the states.
In fact, as I met with media this morning, as I met with (Catherine), we talked about each of our regional offices and how important they are in partnering with the respective departments of environmental quality at the state level with respect to enforcement and other related issues. And I seek to ensure that we engender the trust of those at the state level.
That those at the state level see us as partners in this very important mission we have as an agency and not adversaries. So (federalism) is something that it’s important, process is something important, and honestly, rule of law is important as well as we do our business. John Muir one time said, everyone needs beauty as well as bread, places to pray in and play in.
I don’t believe we can be better as a country. I believe that we as an agency, and we as a nation, can be both pro-energy and jobs and pro-environment. But we don’t have to choose between the two. I think our nation has done better than any nation in the world in making sure that we do the job of protecting our natural resources and protecting our environment, while also respecting the economic growth and jobs our nation seeks to have.
And I hope that as we journey together, that we will establish places to pray in and places to play in for our citizens and do the very important work as an agency. Thank you very much for coming today. I look forward to serving you in the future. Thank you.