U.S. President Donald Trump's administration will begin rolling back Obama-era environmental regulations in an "aggressive way" as soon as next week, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency said on Saturday - adding he understood why some Americans want to see his agency eliminated completely.
"I think there are some regulations that in the near-term need to be rolled back in a very aggressive way. And I think maybe next week you may be hearing about some of those," EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt told the Conservative Political Action summit in Washington DC.
Pruitt added the EPA's focus on combating climate change under former President Barack Obama had cost jobs and prevented economic growth, leading many Americans to want to see the EPA eliminated completely.
"I think its justified," he said. "I think people across this country look at the EPA much like they look at the IRS. I hope to be able to change that."
Pruitt was confirmed as EPA head last week. His appointment triggered an uproar among Democratic lawmakers and environmental advocates worried that he will gut the agency and re-open the doors to heavy industrial pollution. He sued the EPA more than a dozen times as his states' top attorney and has repeatedly cast doubt on the science of climate change.
But his rise to the head of the EPA has also cheered many Republicans and business interests that expect him to cut back red tape they believe has hampered the economy.
Trump campaigned on a promise to slash regulation to revive the oil and gas drilling and coal mining industries.
PUDDLES AND DRY CREEK BEDS
Pruitt mentioned three rules ushered in by Obama that could meet the chopping block early on: the Waters of the U.S. rule outlining waterways that have federal protections; the Clean Power Plan requiring states to cut carbon emissions; and the U.S. Methane rule limiting emissions from oil and gas installations on federal land.
A Trump official told Reuters late Friday that the president was expected to sign a measure as early as Tuesday aimed at rescinding the Waters of the U.S. rule.
Pruitt said in his comments to the CPAC summit that rule had "made puddles and dry creek beds across this country subject to the jurisdiction of Washington DC. That's going to change."
He also suggested longer-term structural changes were in store at the EPA.
"Long-term, asking the question on how that agency partners with the states and how that affects the budget and how it effects the structure is something to work on very diligently," Pruitt said.
Like Trump, he said cutting regulation could be done in a way that does not harm water or air quality.
(Reporting by Richard Valdmanis in Boston; Editing by Marguerita Choy)