By Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis
2 June 2017

(The Washington Post) – Less than four months ago, Scott Pruitt arrived in Washington with few connections to President Trump’s inner circle and took the helm of an agency where many employees were openly hostile to him.

But the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency has emerged as one of the most influential policy architects in the president’s Cabinet, a skilled and sometimes brash lawyer who is methodically taking apart a slew of regulations and agreements affecting a range of issues, from manufacturing operations to landfills.

Many of these actions are works in progress: The United States’ exit from the Paris climate accord, which Trump announced Thursday, will take years, and EPA officials have just begun to rewrite many of the rules he has vowed to scrap. But their sweep — the most concrete manifestation of what the president vowed to do on the campaign trail — has come to define much of the White House’s domestic agenda.

Jeremy Symons, associate vice president of climate political affairs at the Environmental Defense Fund, an advocacy group, said that while Pruitt would appear “to be too far removed from the center of power,” he has already had an outsize impact.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt defends Trump's decision to leave the Paris climate accord on 2 June 2017 at the White House. Photo: Reuters

“People underestimate him,” Symons said.

In the wake of Trump’s Rose Garden speech Thursday — when Pruitt stood beside him at the lectern before delivering his own remarks — fewer people will make that mistake. Pruitt played a decisive role in convincing the president that it made sense to abandon the U.S. commitment to cut its greenhouse gas emissions under the 2015 international agreement. In doing so, the 49-year-old former Oklahoma attorney general effectively prevailed over Trump’s secretary of state, his National Economic Council director, and even his daughter and son-in-law. […]

John Walke, who directs the Natural Resources Defense Council’s clean air project, has been on the opposing side of Pruitt in federal court. The administrator is pursuing a strategy similar to what he did in Oklahoma when he sued the EPA on 14 different fronts, Walke said. Rather than asking the court to send the rule in question back to the agency to be rewritten, Pruitt always pushed to nullify it altogether.

“Mr. Pruitt has emerged as a foreman of a wrecking crew, rather than an architect,” he said. “It is easy to initiate that hostile agenda with a skeleton staff, press releases and instructions to Justice Department attorneys to file motions in court. That’s the easy part. The hard part is navigating the multi-year legal process to actually reverse legal protections, withstand the political outcry and to have those reversals upheld in court.” [more]

Scott Pruitt, outspoken and forceful, moves to the center of power within the Trump administration

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