It was a congenial scene at the EPA Tuesday morning as newly confirmed administrator Scott Pruitt gave his first speech to agency employees. Pruitt stressed principles of civility and listening but also the rule of law and federalism.
After an introduction, Pruitt was presented with an EPA lapel pin and baseball cap. He promised to wear the cap when he attended Nationals baseball games in Washington. Pruitt then launched into his speech by saying he’d been struck by how much everyone he’d met at EPA loved their jobs. He thanked the employees for their long careers in civil service.
Pruitt gave the next section of his speech over to a story about a meeting between Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton over the issue of consolidating the state’s debt after the Revolutionary War. Pruitt offered three lessons from this story. First, that the founding fathers “worked to be problem solvers.” “We deal with very important monumental issues with respect to our future environment and our natural resources,” Pruitt said. “And we must have the same kind of attitude,” he added.
Secondly, Pruitt praised the importance of civility. “We ought to be able to get together and wrestle with some difficult issues and do so in a civil manner,” he said.
Thirdly, Pruitt said, “I seek to be a good listener.” “You can’t lead unless you listen,” Pruitt added. He called these three things “general principles” that were important, but then added there were some other principles he felt were equally important in his new position.
“Regulations ought to make things regular,” Pruitt said. He added, “Regulators exist to give certainty to those that they regulate. Those that we regulate ought to know what’s expected of them so that they can plan and allocate resources to comply.”
Pruitt then turned to the rule of law saying, “As we do rule making…it needs to be tethered to the statute. The only authority that any agency has in the executive branch is the authority given to it by Congress.” He went on to say that sticking closely to the law would help avoid uncertainly and litigation.
Finally, Pruitt said, “Federalism matters.” “I seek to ensure that we engender the trust of those at the state level,” he continued. “That those at the state level see us as partners, in this very important mission we have as an agency, and not adversaries,” he said.
Here’s the full speech: