EPA administrator talks rolling back regulations

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CLIFTON HILL - Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt joined coal plant workers in Randolph County Thursday to talk about rolling back environmental regulations.

Pruitt traveled to the Thomas Hill Energy Center, a coal-powered plant in Clifton Hill. His main message was the U.S. doesn't have to choose between jobs and environment.

"The war on coal is over, the war on fossil fuels is over," Pruitt said. "It was only this past administration that said to us we have to choose between jobs and protecting our environment. We can do both." 

He said the EPA shouldn't be involved in picking the winners and losers when it comes to energy, like during the Obama administration. 

"It has used regulatory power not to make things regular for those that are regulated, but to say 'we're going to put our thumb on the scale in favor of certain types of energy at the expense of others,'" Pruitt said. "We're starting the process of making sure the government is no longer in the business of picking winners and losers." 

Pruitt was joined by U.S. Senator Roy Blunt, Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler and leaders from Missouri's electric cooperatives.

Blunt agreed with Pruitt, saying the federal government needed to back off when it came to energy regulations. 

"The job of the EPA is not to think of new ways that they can control new things," Blunt said. "Their regulatory determination has not been thoughtful as how it was going to impact jobs and families."

He also said energy regulatory policies can have a negative impact on rural families in Missouri. 

"The one thing to always remember with electricity prices is that families pay that bill," Blunt said. "This is not something that government controls. There's no government program that comes in and says 'no we're going to somehow absorb bad regulatory policy.' The people that absorb that policy are the families that pay the bill, and families pay the bill on what it costs to generate the electricity." 

Hartzler echoed the idea that regulatory policies raised energy prices for families. 

"It will give them hope that their electricity bills aren't going to double," Hartzler said. "Under the former plan they were looking at a pretty dark future with having to balance their budget and pay their expenses every month." 

She said a lot of work can be done at the state and local level, as well as by the power companies, themselves.

"We need to work with the states. All the directives and the oversight shouldn't be coming out of the one office in Washington, DC," Hartzler said. "There's the Department of Natural Resources here, local officials and there's certainly private companies like this Associated Electric Coop that is generating electricity." 

There was no opposition or protest at Thursday's event. However, Missouri clean energy business owners, public health experts and advocates spoke out against proposed cuts to EPA budget during a conference a day ahead of Pruitt's visit.

Carolyn Amparan, with the Osage Group with the Sierra Club, said it is the job of the EPA do intervene when it comes to pollutants entering the air. 

"It has been determined that greenhouse gases are a pollutant because of the effect they are having on our atmosphere, climate, as well as their impact on public health," Amaran said. "It is the job of the EPA to regulate those. To the extent that one form of energy is a pollutant and the other is not it makes perfect sense to favor the type of energy that is not polluting over the one that is." 

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer and state representatives Chuck Bayse and Travis Fitzwater were also at the event.

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