WASHINGTON — The growing attention to environmental issues and the question of climate change makes Scott Pruitt's job more important by the day.
President Trump chose him to lead the Environmental Protection Agency and Pruitt hopes to unravel what he calls the "weaponization" of the EPA by the Obama administration.
Pruitt hopes to pursue that mission with a servant's heart. After all, he's the kind of guy you might meet in Bible study. The former Sunday school teacher and church deacon wants to use that faith background in his role as EPA administrator.
Maintaining an Attitude of Service
"As I serve, and as we seek to make decisions, I want to do so based upon an attitude that we're here to minister to people, serve people and have a light and a cheerfulness as we do it," Pruitt told CBN News.
Some of his moves have definitely put smiles on the faces of conservatives. Pruitt believes the Obama administration meddled in Americans' livelihoods and went too far with unnecessary regulations and executive orders.
Rolling Back Regulations That Went Too Far
"Actions taken by the executive branch were really actions that the legislative branch should have been taking or addressing and it impacted liberty," said Pruitt. "When you declare a 'war on coal' from a regulatory perspective, the question has to be asked: where's that in the statute? Where did Congress empower the EPA to declare a war on coal? … There's a role for the EPA. There's a very important role for the agency. The problem is in the last several years that role has been morphed into something it's not," he added.
Pruitt is clearly making his mark at the agency. He played major roles in the United States leaving the Paris Climate Agreement and ending President Obama's "clean power" plan. It sought to curb emissions from coal-fired plants and Pruitt says that unfairly attempted to pick winners and losers on electricity.
Cutting Bureaucratic Red Tape
He also wants to cut bureaucratic red tape. One stated victory: more timely action on nuclear waste sites near people's homes.
"How do you have some of these sites take 30 to 40 years to get re-mediated, cleaned up or in some cases, just a decision made on how to clean up? That's unacceptable," Pruitt said.
Not everyone's cheering. Environmental activists see Pruitt as an administrator who's not a good steward of nature. Pruitt pushes back against that notion.
"The 'environmental Left' tells us that, though we have natural resources like natural gas and oil and coal, and though we can feed the world, we should keep those things in the ground, put up fences and be about prohibition," Pruitt said. "That's wrongheaded and I think it's counter to what we should be about."
Caring for the Environment with a Biblical World View
Pruitt believes God commands us to take care of the environment and that also means to use what He has provided. "The biblical world view with respect to these issues is that we have a responsibility to manage and cultivate, harvest the natural resources that we've been blessed with to truly bless our fellow mankind."
As for climate change or global warming, the "environmental Left" labels Pruitt a science denier. "Truly and clearly, the climate changes," Pruitt acknowledges.
"For someone to say that someone's a skeptic or a climate denier about the climate changing, that's just nonsensical. We see that throughout history. We impact the climate by our activity," Priuitt observed. "How much so is very difficult to determine with respect to our CO2 or carbon footprint, but we obviously do. But here's the key: we as a country have reduced our carbon footprint by almost twenty percent from the year 2000 to 2014. You know how? Through innovation and technology: not government mandate."
Pruitt has also been under criticism for flying around the country in first class or business class rather than coach. The EPA says Pruitt needs the privacy because of people who are angrily confronting him at airports. Recently Pruitt cancelled a trip to Israel over the controversy.
Overall Philosophy: Less Government
Meanwhile, the president is sticking by him. In Pruitt, he gets a man who says his overall philosophy is less government control. It's why Pruitt went into politics a while back and God was at the center of the conversation.
"I spent a couple years just earnestly praying, asking the question that I don't think we ask enough, 'God what do you want to do with me?'" Pruitt said. "Really getting into our prayer closet, seeking His heart, asking what He wants to do in our lives."
"It was actually Isaiah chapter one that I was reading through at that time that really spoke to my heart," he continued. "Specifically, in the latter part of chapter one where God says to Israel, 'I will restore your leaders as in the days of old, your judges as at the beginning.' And there was just a desire that welled up in me to say, 'I want to be like those leaders that we had at our founding, at the inception of our country.'"
For Pruitt, the need to pursue what the founding fathers intended is more important than ever.
"There's never been more of a threat to liberty, to what we know as the protections that are inherent in our Constitution than what we live today," he said.
It's another reason Pruitt would remind critics that the Constitution reads, "We the people" not, "We the government."