Fox News' Chris Wallace grills EPA chief Scott Pruitt on gutting Obama clean air regulations

Chris Wallace grills Scott Pruitt
(Image credit: Fox News)

A few days after President Trump signed an executive order scrapping former President Obama's Clean Power Plan, new Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt went on Fox News Sunday to discuss Trump's policies. He appeared to have expected a friendlier reception.

Chris Wallace began by laying out the benefits the Obama-era EPA touted for the Clean Power Plan — 90,000 fewer asthma attacks and 3,600 fewer deaths per year, for example — and asked Pruitt, "Without the Clean Power Plan, how are you going to prevent those things?" Pruitt said the important thing to remember is that Trump is "keeping his promise to the American people to roll back regulatory overreach."

"You're giving me a regulatory answer, a political answer, you're not giving me a health answer," Wallace protested, then noted that the American Lung Association says half of Americans live in counties with unhealthy air. "You talk about regularity overreach, but the question is, there are 166 million people living in unclear air, and you're going to remove some of the pollution restrictions, which will make the air even worse." Pruitt cited some successes of past EPA regulations, and Wallace cut in: "If you do away with the Clean Power Plan, and boost — as the president promises — coal production, then you're going to make the air even worse. What about those 166 million people?"

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The interview did not get any fluffier. Wallace brought up Pruitt's recent statement that CO2 emissions are not a significant contributor to climate change, and Pruitt said human activity does increase global temperatures, prompting Wallace to accuse him of "sugarcoating" his earlier statement. Studies say CO2 emissions are heating up the planet, Wallace said. "What if you're wrong?" Pruitt said lots of gasses cause global warming, and the question is how much and what can we do about it. "But don't you think the fact that we have these coal power plants belching carbon emissions into the air, you don't think that plays a role?" Pruitt didn't answer directly: "I think that we've done it better than anybody in the world at burning coal clean, in clean fashion."

Wallace ended by asking about Trump's proposed budget, which would slash EPA funds. "What does that say about the commitment from this administration and you to cleaning up the environment, when you're making a 31 percent cut in your agency?" Pruitt said state governments would pick up the slack. Watch below. Peter Weber

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Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.