Scott Pruitt, the new administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, addressed his employees in a speech outlining his vision for the agency on Tuesday.
Pruitt faced strong opposition from environmental groups and hundreds of current and former EPA employees but was confirmed by the Senate 52-46 on Friday, in a largely party-line vote.
He said he was there to listen and respected how long many EPA workers have served the agency. But he also said the agency needs to be transparent in how it makes rules, and emphasized the business community in his remarks.
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"Regulations ought to make things regular," Pruitt said. "Regulators exist to give certainty to those that they regulate."
President Donald Trump picked the 48-year-old Republican lawyer to roll back environmental regulations, but those who were opposed to his nomination fear he will preside over massive budget and staff cuts.
"The biologists, scientists, lab technicians, engineers and other civil servants who work at the EPA must be able to do their jobs without political interference or fear of retribution," said J. David Cox Sr., president of the American Federation of Government Employees, a labor union representing more than 9,000 EPA employees.
In six years as Oklahoma's attorney general, Pruitt filed 14 lawsuits challenging EPA regulations that included limits on carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants. He also sued over the EPA's recent expansion of water bodies regulated under the Clean Water Act, a federal measure opposed by industries that would be forced to clean up polluted wastewater.
During his Senate confirmation hearing last month, Pruitt said he disagreed with Trump's past statements that global warming is a hoax. However, Pruitt has previously expressed doubt about scientific evidence showing that the planet is heating up and that humans are to blame.