EPA administrator, Interior secretary visit with industry

By |  September 26, 2017

Scott Pruitt

The administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior were among the government officials to appear at the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association‘s (NSSGA) inaugural Legislative & Policy Forum this week in Washington, D.C.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke addressed the group of aggregate producers, manufacturers and allied trade representatives during NSSGA’s opening general session Monday. According to NSSGA, nearly 300 people attended this inaugural event that involves attendees storming Capitol Hill on Wednesday for roughly 185 meetings with legislators.

Pruitt, who was confirmed to lead the EPA back in February, discussed several matters related to the aggregate industry at the event, including the state of the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule.

“We’re withdrawing that rule,” Pruitt says. “The process began in earnest on Feb. 28. The president signed an executive order directing our agency to consider withdrawal of WOTUS.”

According to Pruitt, puddles will no longer qualify as water bodies.

“What’s coming next is a replacement definition that matches the intent of the Clean Water Act, using objective criteria so we know where federal jurisdiction begins and ends,” Pruitt says.

In addition to addressing WOTUS, Pruitt offered his perspective on the role of regulation.

“Regulations are intended to make things greater,” Pruitt says. “Those who are regulated across the country need to know what’s expected of them.”

Regulatory reform is essential to ensure American businesses like aggregate operations can function in a business environment that’s fair and reasonable, Pruitt adds.

‚ÄúRegulatory reform does not mean a dearth of regulations,” he says. “It means we are going to go about things consistently, and regulations are intended to make things regular. The greatest impediment to economic growth has been regulatory uncertainty. If agencies change the rules of engagement over and over, that affects the economy and businesses substantially.”

Also, Pruitt discussed his desire to shore up the permitting process for American businesses.

“When it takes 10 years, 15 years [to get a permit], that’s simply being a hindrance to the process,” Pruitt says. “We need to be up and down within a certain timeframe.”

Pruitt hinted that the PA is working to reach a point in which permits are decided upon within six months.

Other perspectives

Ryan Zinke

Zinke, whose address followed Pruitt’s at the NSSGA Legislative & Policy Forum, also discussed the arduous permitting process.

“You should know within six months if you should build or not,” Zinke says.

And businesses should know within that timeframe without having to make extraordinary investments, he adds.

“The president has given every Cabinet member with a piece in this (permitting) clear direction,” Zinke says.

Zinke and Pruitt weren’t the only government officials to address NSSGA’s Legislative & Policy Forum. Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Alabama), the chairman of the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, visited with the industry Tuesday morning, touching on the direction of the Mine Safety & Health Administration, the need to rebuild our nation’s infrastructure, developing the workforce, and tax reform, among other issues.

“All told America has $3 trillion in infrastructure that needs to be built,” Byrne says. “It’s more important that we have safe roads. [And the] recovery from [Hurricanes] Harvey, Maria and Irma is an opportunity to build better so they’ll withstand the next storm.”

Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Michigan) also visited the NSSGA event. Ironically, Huizenga’s family operates Huizenga Gravel Co. a third-generation sand and gravel operation in Michigan.

Rep. Sam Graves (R-Missouri) addressed NSSGA Legislative & Policy Forum attendees, as well. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) shared a short message with attendees via video.

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