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Scott Pruitt Spencer Platt/Getty Images
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 07: Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt arrives at Trump Tower on December 7, 2016 in New York City. Potential members of President-elect Donald Trump's cabinet have been meeting with him and his transition team of the last few weeks. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Pruitt’s Nomination as EPA Head May Not Mean Big Changes for Waste and Recycling

It is expected that Pruitt will focus primarily on energy policy.

President-elect Donald J. Trump will nominate Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—a move that could have big ramifications for the energy sector, but one that may only minimally effect the waste and recycling industry.

Pruitt is a known climate change skeptic. “Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind,” Pruitt wrote in an op-ed earlier this year along with Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange.

He’s been part of a lawsuit including other state attorneys generals that have sued to challenge the Clean Power Plan, a President Barack Obama-backed policy aimed at cutting greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector. He is also is part of a separate suit over the EPA’s regulations aiming to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas sector.

Any moves reducing regulation and encouraging exploration and production domestically, would also benefit segments of the waste and recycling industry that handle E&P waste as part of their business. Companies like U.S. Ecology, GFL Environmental, Nuverra Environmental Solutions and Heritage-Crystal Clean could benefit. Waste Connections also has an E&P unit. 

On his LinkedIn profile, Pruitt lists himself as “a leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda.”

And he’s part of a group of Republican attorneys general that, according to the New York Times, formed an alliance with energy producers to oppose Obama-backed regulations.

As such, it is expected that Pruitt will focus primarily on energy policy. Pruitt’s role, in fact, could be one of cutting back on regulation and reducing the size and mission of the EPA. The waste and recycling sector could be affected secondarily if those changes end up affecting things like waste-to-energy initiatives and methane emissions from landfills. 

It’s unclear if Pruitt has stances on the recently updated Final New Source Performance Standards and the Final Updates to Emission Guidelines that the EPA released in June or the goal the EPA formed with the Department of Agriculture to cut food waste in the U.S. by 2030.

“I am not personally familiar with his record so it is difficult to comment on the nominee.  However, based on the reaction by several environmental groups, proponents of the Obama Administration’s Climate Change regulations, including the Clean Power Plan, have reason for concern,” SWANA Executive Director and CEO David Biderman said in an emailed statement.

But since waste and recycling policy is largely dictated at the local level, Pruitt may not play a big role in shifting the current trends in legislation and policy that have emphasized increased diversion and recycling, waste reduction and, in some jurisdictions, the banning of food waste from landfills.

Trump at times during his campaign called for the elimination of the EPA. Although he backed off of that talk in September saying instead that he wanted to “refocus the EPA on its core mission of ensuring clean air, and clean, safe drinking water for all Americans.”

His comments in regards to the EPA have revolved around climate issues and conservation. He also has pledged to repeal major EPA environmental regulations, such as the Clean Power Plan, the Waters of the United States rule and Obama's Climate Action Plan.

Trump had appointed Myron Ebell to lead the EPA transition team in late November.

Ebell is the director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a nonprofit public policy organization “dedicated to advancing the principles of limited government, free enterprise and individual liberty.”

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