*This piece originally appeared in the Detroit Legal News.
by Gary Maveal, Professor of Law, University of Detroit Mercy School of Law
The president’s nominee to head the nation’s Environmental Protection Agency is a staunch opponent of its work. Should this disqualify Scott Pruitt from consideration as the next EPA Administrator? I submit that it clearly does.
The Role to Fill
Founded under President Nixon in 1970, the EPA was borne of a national movement insisting that a federal agency was needed to defend the nation’s lands, air and water from degradation. Citizens recognized that pollution ignored the bounds of state lines – and that individual states lacked the resources or political will to confront polluting industries.
The design of most federal statutes authorizes the EPA to set national standards for polluting activities which are then implemented by the states. In this way, the EPA avoids the “race to the bottom” by states competing by offering varying (i.e., higher) allowable levels of emissions or discharges.
The role of EPA administrator is a challenging one, overseeing a dizzying array of complex federal statutes protecting the air, water and endangered species. EPA rules regulate toxins from arsenic to zinc. In addition, the agency oversees a variety of public education and grant programs to inform and study environmental issues across the nation. The administrator must be proficient in assessing scientific data from public and private sources.