Feb. 27, 2017 by Evan Isaacson

Environmental Federalism and Scott Pruitt -- We've Been Here Before

The ascension of Scott Pruitt as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ushers in a new chapter in the long story of cooperative federalism in the administration of U.S. environmental laws. Pruitt's words and actions as the Attorney General of Oklahoma suggest that, as much as any other issue, idea, or policy, federalism will be a recurring theme.

But are the cries about federalism really about finding the proper balance of state and federal roles in implementation of our environmental laws? Or is federalism merely a tool in the conservative toolbox used to achieve their real aim: dismantling environmental regulation?

To be sure, a focus on federalism has long been one of the core values of conservatives as they argue for devolution of power to state and local governments. Indeed, the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized federalism as one of the oldest and most uniquely American policy debates.

But federalism is merely the label or frame for debates over the balancing and sharing of power between the states and the federal government. If simply tipping that balance toward state authority and away from the federal government was really the true concern of Pruitt and other conservatives, then …

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