EPA administrator Scott Pruitt on rolling back regulations

This is a rush transcript from "Your World," October 17, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, "YOUR WORLD" HOST: Well, he runs the EPA, but to hear many environmentalists say it, at least, Scott Pruitt is not exactly on the side of the environment, more those companies and those fossil fuel industries that destroy the environment.

He says they have got it all wrong.

Scott Pruitt talking to me earlier.


SCOTT PRUITT, ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY ADMINISTRATOR: Our job is to be informed and making good decisions on how we regulate to achieve good environmental outcomes, but also to do so consistent with the statutes.

So, I think that process is the right process. But, Neil, I think, as we look at the overreach, the overreach with the Clean Power Plan, a war on a sector of our economy -- I mean, a week ago today, I was in Kentucky talking to folks there about the war on coal that the previous administration engaged in.

It was a real war. And the president said the war is over. And that's what I was there to announce to those folks there.

You shouldn't -- as a regulator, you shouldn't engage in any kind of war on any sector of your economy. You should look at these issues, utility companies making decisions on stability, cost, using all forms of fuel, from natural gas to coal to renewables, in the generation of electricity.

CAVUTO: But isn't natural gas that has been the biggest competitor and threat to traditional coal, that you wouldn't even have to be doing any of this stuff had you let market forces prevail?

In other words, that's the biggest burden that the coal producers face, that, you know, the clean natural gas alternative that just rose and quickly became the new energy du jour in this country?

PRUITT: But I think, from a mining sector perspective, they would say to you it was not just the competition in the marketplace.

It was the availed purpose by the previous administration to place burdens and restrictions on them that did not improve environmental outcomes, but increased burden.


CAVUTO: So, you felt, let's say, the prior administration targeted in this case all of the fossil fuel industries?

PRUITT: Without question. Without question.

CAVUTO: All right, well, the reason why I mention it, sir, is that there has been a great deal of talk about your move now to go one step further to stop this so-called sue-and-settle approach that we have been having to try to curb legal settlements with environmentalists.

They have argued, The Sierra Club has come out to say of what you did here, "There's a general hostility to citizen enforcement of environmental laws, and it reflects the fact that Administrator Pruitt doesn't want these laws enforced."

What do you say to that?

PRUITT: Absolutely.

Look, I'm a former attorney general. I led a grand jury. I know what it means to prosecute folks. We have already begun the process to prosecute individuals in many cases across the country.

What's -- what -- what -- what happened here over the last several years is not enforcement, Neil. It was an abuse of the rule-making process, because the EPA would engage in discussions with these various third parties and they would agree to certain obligations, taking discretionary duties in the statute and making them non-discretionary, or changing timelines that Congress had put in a statute.

And then they would go to a court and say, put this within a consent decree. And then they would use that to go to states and citizens all over the country and say now you have to do this. And it didn't go through rule-making.

That's a subversion of the rule-making process. It's called sue and settle and regulation through litigation. And any agency of the federal government that engages in substantive rule-making through the judicial process is abusing their authority under the statute.

And that's what we ended yesterday.

CAVUTO: Now, the press always has a field day trying to peg you on climate change, sir. And I know you have tried to address it in the past.

But I wanted to know for the record. You said that you believe in climate change. You believe that man in a large part might be contributing to it. But you don't take the leap where man should spend a lot of money, I think I have got it right, to address that.

What is your position on it? Of course, as you know, President Trump when he was running for office blamed this on China, said it was a China hoax, that they're getting away with being the most abusive and they get off scot-free. But your views?

PRUITT: I mean, I think that -- I think the president's view in that regard, like the Paris accord that we exited with the leadership of the president, where China and India didn't have to take any steps with CO2 reductions until the year 2030.

In fact, India conditioned all of the responsibilities on receiving $2.5 trillion of aid. When we look at what we have achieved in this country, Neil, with respect to CO2 reductions, we're at pre-1994 levels today, largely through innovation and technology, as you put earlier, a conversion to natural gas in the generation of electricity.

We are actually -- we have reduced our CO2 footprint by over 18 percent, almost 20 percent, from 2000 to 2014. So we're leading with action.


CAVUTO: So your issue wasn't denying the fact that man might have a role in climate change, just the degree to which we would bear the burden to pay to correct that?


PRUITT: Comparatively. Comparatively to these other nations with respect to the Paris accord.


CAVUTO: I'm sorry.

If India, sir, and China were to pay up or pony up more than they are now, which is next to nothing, at least in the early years of that accord, but they will down the road, if they were to do that right now, would the U.S. consider then rejoining and honoring that accord?

PRUITT: I think the better discussion, Neil, is not to put artificial targets, like we did in Paris, 26 to 28 percent that the past administration with their own regulations failed miserably to achieve.

It's to focus on what we have already done to reduce the CO2 footprint and then export that technology to places like China and India.

But let me say this to you, Neil. All that being said, the tools and the toolbox under the Clean Air Act on how to address this issue is a very important question.

I can't imagine authority under the Clean Air Act. I can't create it out of thin air, forgive the reference, and make it up. That's what the previous administration did. The Clean Power Plan was re-imagined authority.

It was so unprecedented that the U.S. Supreme Court intervened and issued a stay of enforcement against the unlawful action of the Clean Power Plan.

CAVUTO: So you didn't buy the Obama administration's argument at the time, sir, that 6,600 premature deaths could have been avoided or that 150,000 birth defects, asthma attacks and the like in children could have been avoided?

PRUITT: Neil, we regulate pollutants under the National Ambient Air Quality Standards program, the NAAQS program, as it's called.

CAVUTO: Right.

PRUITT: That is focused on health. There's no cost-benefit analysis at all.

What the past administration did with the CO2 reductions is, they double- counted. They look at those kinds of reductions and pollutants alongside of the CO2 reductions and said we should get the benefit of that double counting to really spice up the cost-benefit analysis.

But all that being said, Neil, the fact of the matter is this. We are leading the nation -- excuse me -- the world with respect to our CO2 footprint in reductions. We're doing though -- doing so through innovation and technology.

And we have got to ask and answer the question. What authority has Congress given the EPA to engage in rule-making to reduce CO2? The past administration didn't do that. Our administration is.


CAVUTO: OK, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.


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