Click here to watch Chairman Barrasso’s remarks

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), delivered the following remarks on the Senate floor regarding the need for change at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Barrasso’s speech focused on the need for the Senate to confirm Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, President Trump’s nominee for administrator of the EPA. 

Senator Barrasso’s remarks:

“Last week, the committee on Environment and Public Works held a hearing on the nomination of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency.

“The hearing was really about the future of this agency – and how we can get it back to doing the job that it was meant to do from the very begining.

“We are blessed in this country with enormous natural resources. Our goal should be to use these resources responsibly, in ways that protect our environment and help make our economy strong.

“Over the past eight years, the leaders of the Environmental Protection Agency have created broad and legally questionable new regulations that undermined the American people’s faith in the agency. The political leaders of this agency have been reckless, irresponsible, and arrogant.

“A course of correction is long overdue – and it’s exactly what we’re going to get. If you have any doubts that the EPA lost its way, you could just look at two of the biggest environmental scandals we’ve seen in a long long time.

“In the summer of 2015, there was what became known as the Gold King Mine disaster. The Environmental Protection Agency spilled 3 million gallons of toxic waste water into a river in Colorado.

“This was water filled with toxic substances like arsenic and lead. It flowed to New Mexico and Utah – through the land of the Navajo Nation and the Southern Ute Indian tribe.

“There are 200,000 people who drink water from the river system that the EPA poisoned. Farmers and ranchers couldn’t use the water for their crops or their animals.

“The other disaster that the Environmental Protection Agency helped to cause was what happened in Flint, Michigan.

“The EPA failed to do the proper oversight. As a result, thousands of children were exposed to high levels of lead in their drinking water.

“The agency knew about the dangers to public health – and for months, did nothing to warn people.

“These are two scandals where the Environmental Protection Agency actually harmed people’s health because it was negligent.

“There are also many ways that the agency has harmed families and the American economy – not by accident, but intentionally.

“It’s issued thousands of pages of regulations, trying to shut down the entire coal industry in the United States.

“Since 2009, the Environmental Protection Agency has come out with nearly 200 new regulations.

“According to the American Action Forum, the total cost of all this new red tape is about $340 billion.

“The agency has piled enormous new restrictions and costs onto American families and businesses, all to produce miniscule benefits.

“One of them was the so-called Clean Power Plan.

“States sued to block this destructive bureaucratic overreach. The courts had to step in and tell Washington, ‘Not so fast.’

“We should be looking for ways to make American energy as clean as we can, as fast as we can, without raising costs for American families.

“That’s not what the Environmental Protection Agency did with its power regulations.

“The EPA also put out another new rule that dramatically expanded its own control over what it calls ‘waters of the United States.’

“The agency declared that it has control over things like irrigation ditches and backyard ponds all across America.

“Two different courts have blocked this rule from taking effect. Why? Because it goes so far beyond the agency’s authority. For eight years now, the leaders of the EPA have not had their priorities straight.

“They’ve been pursuing a political agenda instead of focusing on what should be the agency’s core mission.

“The Environmental Protection Agency was created for a reason because America needed someone to perform this mission. There is a right way to do the job.

“We can strike the right balance – so that we protect our environment while allowing our economy to grow.

“My state of Wyoming is one of the most pristine places in the country, one of the most beautiful places in the world, yet energy-rich states in the country. Wyoming has struck this balance successfully, and so have other states.

“We can address threats to our environment through the cooperation of states, towns, Indian tribes, and Washington.

“The quality of America’s air, water, and land are local concerns as much as they are national concerns.

“The Environmental Protection Agency should not try to dictate regulations from Washington without consulting its partners at all levels.

“Much of the work of the EPA is intended to give states a chance to take action first.

“Federal regulators are meant to be a backstop, acting when states and communities fail to act.

“Restoring this proper order – and restoring the partnership of states with the EPA – is essential to making sure people see the agency as legitimate once again.

“The agency must learn to listen before it acts. We can also restore the Environmental Protection Agency by restating its commitment to the rule of law. It is why the American people elect a Congress because of the rule of law.

“The agency must enforce the laws as they are written by Congress.

“The agency cannot rewrite the laws – and it cannot ignore the parts of the law that it doesn’t like. Although that is exactly what the EPA has been doing.

“We all know that the Environmental Protection Agency used to do good work.

“It protected America’s environment, while understanding that there need to be reasonable regulations that allow people to use our natural resources.

“Every American wants clean air, clean water, and common sense protection for species. That won’t change.

“We need the EPA to do its job, and we need it to do the job right.

“Through six hours of questioning before our committee last week, Scott Pruitt showed that he understands the need to return the Environmental Protection Agency back to its proper course.

“He showed that he is committed to working as a partner with Americans all across the country – to find the best ways to address the threats to our environment.

“His record as the attorney general of Oklahoma showed that he is committed to restoring and maintaining the rule of law.

“I’m confident that Attorney General Pruitt will be able to right the ship at the EPA.

“I’m confident that he can restore the balance between the benefits the agency can deliver for Americans, with the costs that it imposes.

“As chairman of the Committee on Environment and Public Works, I am committed to making sure that the Senate exercises appropriate oversight to make sure that this happens.”