President Donald Trump’s newly installed environmental chief Scott Pruitt laid out his vision for reshaping the way the federal government safeguards air and water, as he tried to convince skeptical federal employees that a refashioned agency can remain effective.
Pruitt addressed the Environmental Protection Agency’s workforce—including hundreds who had actively battled his confirmation—on Feb. 21, in his first speech since he was sworn in as administrator Friday.
“We as an agency and we as a nation can be both pro-energy and jobs and we can be pro-environment, and we don’t have to choose between the two,” Pruitt said to employees at the EPA’s Washington headquarters. His remarks were also streamed to EPA’s 15,000-strong workforce nationwide.
Pruitt also decried a deeply politicized environment that he said creates obstacles to finding effective solutions.
“We deal with very important, monumental issues with respect to our future,” he said.
Perhaps more than any other member of Trump’s cabinet, Pruitt is at odds with the agency he now leads. He built his political career fighting federal regulations he said stripped power away from states, and as Oklahoma attorney general, joined more than a dozen lawsuits challenging EPA actions by the Obama administration. He also appeared to relish his role as the agency’s chief antagonist; an online biography dubbed Pruitt “a leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda.“