WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency rolled back 22 regulations last year that saved $1 billion, including one that will benefit hard-rock mining companies that operate in states like Nevada, Administrator Scott Pruitt said Monday.
While Pruitt touted a reversal of many Obama-era regulations, conservation groups like the Environmental Defense Fund said the Trump administration’s reduction in spending on EPA programs could hurt Nevada’s economy and environment “for years to come.”
Pruitt, though, said he has used the first year of his term as EPA administrator to try “to restore order in the rule-making process.”
A former Oklahoma attorney general who opposed EPA regulations, Pruitt has led an agency makeover to focus on a “back-to-basics agenda.”
Pruitt told a roundtable with regional reporters that when he arrived at the agency, “there wasn’t an urgency in getting things done.”
Democrats in Congress have criticized the Trump administration and Pruitt for cuts to EPA programs and efforts to dismantle regulatory protections that have been implemented since the agency was created in 1970.
“We are seeing now the defunding of several programs and overall spending by the EPA, and in turn less accountability from companies and industries that are rid of necessary rules that restrict environmental damage or pollution,” said Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev.
“It’s detrimental to the safety and health of Nevadans,” said Cortez Masto, a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
But Pruitt said that in states like Nevada, regulatory rollbacks or actions were sought locally and helped economically. Pruitt said a decision not to implement the “financial assistance rule” relieved mining companies of duplicate bond requirements.
The EPA’s decision not to implement the financial assistance rule was applauded by both Republican and Democratic governors in Nevada, Minnesota and other states that saw it as “not really achieving any benefit.”
He also touted a decision that kept the Anaconda Mine near Yerington, Nevada, off the EPA Superfund list, allowing an accelerated privately funded cleanup of the old copper mine.
Pruitt said Nevadans supported the decision because they want the land repurposed, and placing it on a federal Superfund list would lead to an “uncertain and time-consuming” cleanup process.
The EPA administrator spent three days in Nevada last year, including at an event with Gov. Brian Sandoval at the Anaconda Mine.
Pruitt said he is most satisfied with work with governors and communities to move contaminated sites off the Superfund priorities list and finding a resolution on cleanup of sites.