As Executive Director of OK’s Department of Environmental Quality, Scott Thompson understands Scott Pruitt’s record on important issues that he’ll address at the EPA. Read why he knows that the EPA “will be in good hands,” with Pruitt at the helm:
When Pruitt took office, his team exhibited deftness at moving complex environmental issues mired in protracted litigation toward workable solutions.
Over the past six years, Pruitt’s legal team has consistently shown deference to the legal expertise and professionals at DEQ. More importantly, I cannot recall an instance where they did not allow us to pursue legal action we deemed necessary.
One such example involved negotiations he initiated to protect Oklahoma’s Scenic Rivers from phosphorus pollution. Pruitt insisted on using science as the determining factor in a legal dispute between Oklahoma and Arkansas, which had long been in dispute about Arkansas’s upstream pollution of Oklahoma’s Scenic Rivers. Ultimately, Pruitt’s actions resulted in the preservation of Oklahoma’s desired standard of phosphorus levels in our rivers.
Pruitt was essential in negotiating an historic water rights settlement with Indian tribes in southeast Oklahoma that preserved the ecosystems of scenic lakes and rivers. This settlement, when Pruitt first arrived in office, seemed impossible due to conflict among the parties involved.
Lastly, DEQ has independently managed our state and federal regulatory programs, including enforcement cases, as well as our daily operations free of the worry we might face pressure or politicizing of our responsibilities by the Office of the Attorney General. We are fortunate to have experienced this situation as I am not sure my counterparts in other states have a similar relationship with their attorney general’s office.
This experience gives me confidence in how Pruitt will address similar politically fraught challenges as the next EPA Administrator. Looking at the issues facing EPA, I believe he will make reforms in line with his actions in Oklahoma.
- To prioritize funding for states that are effectively implementing programs and enforcing the rules while aggressively streamlining the bureaucracy so resources can be used where they make the biggest difference;
- To measure success not based on number of new rules created, but on achieving solutions while minimizing the burdens placed companies and citizens who are trying to play by the rules;
- To consult states and localities on any updates that are made to rules and regulations rather than having a top down government-knows-best approach.
It has been my experience, that the principles behind these reforms guided the implementation of policy. Pruitt looked for our guidance on rule changes and assisted us when we needed clarification of rules or legal support. He and his team focused their efforts on burdensome, and in my opinion, oftentimes unnecessary, rules EPA has promulgated without clear authority.
I believe EPA will be in good hands with Scott Pruitt and his confirmation will ensure an environmental agency that once again is responsive and fair to the citizens it serves.
Scott Thompson is executive director of the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality.