Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt visited Little Rock Thursday and met with state and agricultural leaders. He attended meetings with Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge and other agricultural stakeholders.
According to an EPA spokeswoman, Pruitt was to talk about the agency’s partnerships with the state. But a local chapter of the Sierra Club suggested his visit was "to promote the Trump Administration’s anti-environmental agenda."
Images on social media showed Pruitt speaking inside the Little Rock headquarters of the Arkansas Poultry Federation, an organization that lobbies on behalf of the industry.
The former Oklahoma Attorney General also reportedly spoke about the EPA’s Waters of the United States rule, an Obama-era policy that expanded clean water protections to smaller bodies of water that feed into larger ones. Earlier this year, the Trump administration announced the EPA would review the rule, with the intention of rewriting it or repealing it.
Many Republican elected officials in Arkansas have criticized the rule as overly broad and have since praised the administration’s decision to review it.
Pruitt in recent days also visited Utah and Minnesota to talk about the WOTUS rule and other issues, according to local media in those states. His Arkansas visit was not widely publicized in advance by the EPA, the Arkansas Governor's office Attorney General's office, or the Arkansas Agriculture Department. The entities did make Twitter postings about the visit after his arrival.
Rutledge's office released a statement Thursday afternoon upon meeting with Pruitt:
“Administrator Pruitt’s decision last month to completely re-evaluate the WOTUS rule, minimizing the regulatory burden on countless landowners, demonstrates his commitment to building stronger relationships with state partners. Preserving and protecting our clean air and clean water through a cooperative, lawful and thoughtful process based on science and data is a priority for Arkansas.”
But in a statement, Glen Hooks, director of the Arkansas Sierra Club, suggested Pruitt has a goal of rollbacks to the federal Clean Water Act which would be detrimental to the state.
Arkansas is The Natural State, a place where we place a high priority on clean water. We hope that Administrator Pruitt learned today about the damage and environmental consequences that the Trump Administration’s clean water rollbacks will cause to our citizens and waterways. The Clean Water Act makes it plain that science should lead policy, not the other way around. Arkansans expect the EPA to lead the fight to protect our most precious resources. Sadly, Administrator Pruitt is taking a different approach. Since assuming office back in February, Administrator Pruitt has proposed rolling back dozens of existing environmental protections – recklessly creating new threats to the health and quality of life of Arkansas families. The Arkansas Sierra Club is committed to protecting our water and natural resources here in The Natural State. We will continue to strenuously oppose the Trump Administration’s environmental rollbacks at every opportunity, because our state's air and water are worth fighting for.