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EPA Leader Visits Utah, Talks About Rolling Back Regulations

Judy Fahys
Scott Pruitt, administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, spoke briefly with a few reporters on Tuesday. EPA press officials made Pruitt available to just a few reporters following his meeting with officials and industry representatives.

The nation’s top environmental regulator stopped in Utah Tuesday to talk about clean water. He heard ideas from state officials and industry about revamping a controversial regulation.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt is going state-to-state, talking about what’s called the “Waters of the United States” rule.

He told reporters: “Waters of the United States rule that was adopted in 2015 was a rule that literally – and this is not editorial comment – created jurisdiction of the EPA over drainage ditches, puddles, dry creek beds across the country.”

Like 30 other states, Utah says the Obama administration overstepped its authority and wants the rule scrapped. The Trump administration agrees and has already set a plan in motion to scrap it. Now Pruitt is working on a replacement.

“What we’re hearing from is from realtors and homebuilders and farmers and ranchers and private property owners across the state of Utah and other states,” said Pruitt, “on how we can deal with those issues and provide objective clarity” about what lakes and streams are under federal jurisdiction.

Pruitt toured sites in Summit County Tuesday morning. Then he met with three dozen officials and industry representatives at the State Capitol. Representatives from the environmental community were absent from that meeting. But Randy Parker of the Utah Farm Bureau was there, and he was happy about what he heard.

“We can do both; we can have both,” said Parker. “Both the administrator and Governor Herbert both said we can protect the environment. We don’t have to kill the economy in doing that.”

Pruitt also told Governor Gary Herbert he’s reconsidering an EPA decision last year that forces Rocky Mountain Power to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on new pollution controls on two coal-fired power plants. Environmentalists had pushed for those controls to clear up haze in nearby national parks.

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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