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Pruitt, Zinke and Perry Target Clean Air and Water Rules to Curb 'Burdens' on Energy Sector

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EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. Photo by Tami Heilemann, Interior

At a speech in North Dakota last month, President Trump boasted that his administration is refocusing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to its "core mission: clean air and clean water."

"That's what I want—clean air," he continued. "Think of it. We talk about the—I want beautiful clean air, and I want crystal-clean water, right? That's what we want."


That statement—based on Trump's nine months of environmental rollbacks, from approving the Dakota Access and Keystone pipelines to gutting the Clean Power Plan—could not be further from the truth.

In a shocking report from Reuters, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, Energy Sec. Rick Perry and Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke have each announced separate steps on how they will carry out President Trump's "energy independence" executive order in March to ease regulatory burdens on energy development.

One of the most environmentally consequential steps comes from Pruitt's EPA, which will try to pinpoint how the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act affects energy sectors jobs. (Earth to Mr. President: these landmark laws are designed to give us "clean air" and "crystal-clean water.")

"We are working to curb unnecessary and duplicative regulatory burdens that do not serve the American people," Pruitt said in a statement.

Here are the other steps that Trump's agencies will be taking to boost the energy sector, as detailed by Reuters:

"The EPA will also create a task force to simplify the permit process for building new polluting facilities, weigh options to revamp national ambient air quality standards and launch a "smart sectors" program to engage with industries as it crafts regulations.

The Energy Department said it will focus on streamlining natural gas exports, review its national laboratory policies, review National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations for approving major infrastructure projects and reviewing the agency's popular household appliance standards program.

The Interior Department submitted what it called an 'energy burdens' report to the president, which outlines some Obama-era regulations it has started to reverse or reform, or has plans to.

This includes lifting the moratorium on coal leases on federal land, reviewing regulations on fracking on federal and tribal land, developing a five-year plan for offshore drilling and streamlining the federal leasing program and permitting process."

While the administration claims that boosting jobs and the economy are the end goal, a new feature in TIME questions if Pruitt's actions—and Trump's by extension—are serving industry interests instead:

"Since [Pruitt] took office, more than a dozen EPA regulations have been killed or put under review, from fuel-efficiency standards to regulations on the disposal of coal ash to restrictions on toxic metals like arsenic in waterways," the magazine noted. "Moreover, the Trump Administration has proposed slashing funding for the agency's law-enforcement branch, which identifies polluters under existing regulations.

"All this has aided businesses, propping up the declining coal industry, ensuring profit margins for chemical makers and reducing compliance costs for farmers. But the change has also weakened an agency designed to save lives.

"'They're trying to deconstruct and dismantle the basic protections,' says Mustafa Ali, a career EPA official who resigned in March after 24 years. 'They're creating situations where more folks are going to get sick, some folks are going to die, more folks are going to be put in harm's way.'"

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