SALT LAKE CITY--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The following is an opinion editorial provided by Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes.
Before leaving private practice, I defended a large multi-national client against allegations of Clean Water Act violations brought by the U.S. Department of Justice on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA sought three remedies: (1) revocation of my client’s ability to do business in the US, which would end all North American operations, eliminating thousands of jobs and costing the American economy hundreds of millions of dollars; (2) conviction of two corporate employees at the lower management level, amounting to life imprisonment given their age; and (3) record fines of tens of millions of dollars.
Given the fervor with which the EPA pursued the case, one would imagine my clients had been guilty of heinous environmental atrocities. Instead, the thrust of the EPA lawsuit alleged my client was polluting local waterways, possibly affecting beaks and claws of waterfowl over time due to trace amounts of selenium (by some calculations, that amount was less than what the average person could ingest in a daily multi-vitamin).
After years of litigation in which the EPA spent millions of taxpayer dollars, my legal team proved in court that the agency was relying on an erroneous standard, improperly permitted, as the basis for its misguided persecution of this company. While we won, my client was not reimbursed millions of dollars for legal fees due to the EPA’s mistakes. There was no apology by the agency to families of two men who spent years wondering if they would go to prison. And, there was no remorse for blighting the good name of an upstanding corporation.
Throughout the case, the EPA seemed more intent on sending a message than protecting the environment. While this is certainly not true of all cases brought by the EPA, ours was assuredly not an isolated one. And while this case finished in 2008, shortly before President Obama took office, things only worsened under the eight years of his administration.
This view of the Obama EPA run amok is shared by the cognoscenti on both sides of the political spectrum. As famed progressive Harvard Law Professor, Laurence Tribe, testified before Congress:
“EPA is attempting an unconstitutional trifecta: usurping the prerogatives of the States, Congress, and the Federal Courts — all at once. Much is up for grabs in this complex area. But burning the Constitution of the United States — about which I care deeply — cannot be part of our national energy policy.…”
Professor Tribe was exactly right. Beyond overzealous prosecutions, the EPA has attempted to grant itself sweeping and unprecedented powers, including those regulating Clean Power and the Waters of the United States. I joined Attorney General Scott Pruitt of Oklahoma and dozens of other AGs in suing the EPA for its ill-conceived attempts to bypass Congress and act outside of its proper jurisdiction. And the courts have agreed with us.
Pruitt is precisely the type of leader needed to bring equilibrium to an agency too often intoxicated by its own power. He can help balance the critical interests of conservation and environmental protection with the needs of business, innovation, ranching, recreation, tourism and agrarian interests. On one hand, Pruitt is a successful businessman with an understanding of the deleterious effects of overregulation. On the other hand, he has a long history of protecting the environment in Oklahoma as Attorney General.
Pruitt negotiated a historic water rights settlement with Indian tribes, preserving the ecosystems of scenic lakes and rivers; he worked with his Democrat counterpart in Arkansas to reduce pollution in the Illinois River; and he represented the interests of Oklahomans in rate cases against utility companies and in numerous actions against those who contaminated his state’s air and water, including lawsuits against oil and gas companies that were profiting off pollution and defrauding taxpayers. In short, Pruitt’s record demonstrates that he seeks balanced, pragmatic and effective environmental protections. I would not want to be a company violating the law under a Pruitt led EPA.
Scott Pruitt will serve capably if confirmed. He has great judgment, a fine legal mind and impeccable integrity. He represents the best of what public service has to offer.
AG Reyes Short Bio:
The Honorable Sean D. Reyes is the 21st Attorney General and first ethnic minority elected statewide in Utah. He has been lauded by legislators from both sides of the aisle for his work ethic and legal skill. In 2016, Reyes was asked to join President-elect Trump’s Supreme Court, AAPI and Hispanic advisory committees, and was named among the top 50 most influential Latino American Republicans. www.seanreyes.com