Politico published an analysis Sunday of EPA Chief Scott Pruitt’s record at the agency, but most of its treatment relies on a faulty understanding of the agency head’s position on the president’s budget proposal.
Many of the points Politico uses to scrutinize Pruitt’s job hinge on his supposed wholesale support of President Donald Trump’s budget. But he has been deeply critical of various aspects of the president’s budget, especially cuts to funding for Superfund programs.
Politico reporters Alex Guillen and Emily Holden highlighted five areas where Pruitt has not kept promises he made before becoming Trump’s EPA administrator. They specifically mentioned his willingness to sign on to the president’s cuts to Superfund sites and water infrastructure projects.
Pruitt signed off on a “budget proposal that would strip $330 million from the $1.1 billion Superfund program and cut funding for the Justice Department to enforce cases,” they wrote in one section. The story did not flesh out the amount of pushback the agency chief exerted on Trump’s budget.
“I am concerned about the grants that have been targeted, particularly around water infrastructure, and those very important state revolving funds,” Pruitt told reporters in March in response to the president’s proposals. He also asked mayors at an event later that month to bring him “success stories” to give the White House’s Office of Management and Budget.
Pruitt explained that the ideal situation is to set priorities for the EPA and then craft the budget around those expectations.
“What’s difficult, having only been there a week, is to have these kinds of recommendations made and then look at our priorities and say, ‘You know what, we’ve got to make sure that we look at these programs,'” he said. Pruitt was narrowly confirmed to head the agency in February, while Trump etched out his budget in March.
An initial version of the proposal floated the idea of reducing EPA’s overall budget by one-fourth, slashing state air grants by 30 percent, nixing 3,000 employees and eliminating 38 programs. One EPA official claimed that “there’s going to be back-and-forth” between the agency and the White House on the issues.
The official said he wouldn’t characterize the concerns as at type of “pushback,” but there are some programs Trump intended on axing that both Pruitt and members of Congress want to keep around.
Pruitt is working to refashion the EPA, transitioning the agency from fighting man-made global warming to protecting human health and the environment. He is specifically wanting the agency to become an auxiliary force for states that are unable to meet pollution standards.
He has criticized Obama in the past for supposedly prioritizing legislation targeting climate change and carbon emission reductions over other regional environmental issues.
“Everyone looks at the Obama administration as being the environmental savior. Really? He was the environmental savior?” Pruitt asked incredulously during an interview in September. He rattled off a list of examples where Obama’s EPA stumbled on environmental matters.
House lawmakers eventually put forward draft legislation to cut the EPA budget about 80 percent less than what was found in Trump’s budget proposal.
The appropriations bill gave the EPA a $7.5 billion budget in 2017, which is $528 million less than the agency’s 2017 budget. The White House recommended cutting the EPA’s budget to $2.6 billion.
More broadly, the bill would provide $31.4 billion to federal environmental programs at the EPA, Department of the Interior and other agencies. It’s an $824 million cut below 2017 levels, but $4.3 billion less than the White House’s request.
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