In Part I of this series, I wrote about the virtues of federalism. Now it’s time to talk about the negative things that happened when the Obama administration ignored the Constitution and the rule of law. Specifically, I’ll quote from Kim Strassel’s article about Scott Pruitt.

Picking up where I left off, let’s rejoin Strassel’s article where she wrote “Under the Clean Air Act, states are allowed to craft their own implementation plans. If the EPA disapproves of a state plan, it is empowered to impose a federal one—one of the most aggressive actions the agency can take against a state, since it is the equivalent of a seizure of authority. In the entirety of the presidencies of George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, the EPA imposed five federal implementation plans on states. By last count, the Obama administration has imposed at least 56.” That’s where Pruitt comes in.

According to Strassel, much “of Mr. Pruitt’s tenure as Oklahoma’s AG was about trying to stuff federal agencies back into their legal boxes. Most of the press either never understood this, or never wanted to. When the media wrote about state lawsuits against ObamaCare or the Clean Power Plan or the Water of the United States rule, the suggestion usually was that this litigation was ideologically motivated, and a naked attempt to do what a Republican Congress could not—tank the president’s agenda.”

The next paragraph, Ms. Strassel wrote this:

The basis of nearly every one of these lawsuits was in fact violations of states’ constitutional and statutory rights— and it is why so many of the cases were successful. It was all a valiant attempt to force the federal government to follow the law. And it has been a singular Pruitt pursuit.

On issues of executive overreach, President Obama had a terrible record in the Supreme Court, at one point losing 13 straight 9-0 decisions. It will take time to tame the EPA. You can’t change the entire Agency culture with the blink of an eye. Here’s the good news:

In announcing his nomination, the president-elect took care to note that Mr. Pruitt was an “expert in constitutional law” and that his job would be to restore the “EPA’s essential mission.”

Which is exactly the reform the EPA needs. The agency doesn’t need a technically trained environmentalist at its head, since it is already bubbling over with green regulations. It doesn’t need a climate warrior, as Congress has never passed a climate law, and so the EPA has no mandate to meddle there. What it needs is a lawyer, one with the knowledge of how to cut the agency back to its proper role—restoring not just an appropriate legal partnership with the states, but also with other federal bodies. One who reminds agency staff that the EPA was not created to oppose growth and development.

Getting the EPA to live within its statutory and constitutional boundaries is a monumental responsibility. If Pruitt accomplishes a culture change before he leaves, he’ll have my vote for the greatest EPA administrator in history.

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