Sen. Tom Carper sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt on April 18 seeking clarification on media reports that EPA officials are in active discussions with private sector industries to hire private attorneys to quickly rewrite a weakened version of the Clean Water Rule, which protects water sources across the country.

In his letter, Carper noted, “…such an approach suggests either that EPA lacks the appropriate staff or budgetary resources to complete a new rule or that the agency intends to devolve its regulatory obligations to industry. Frankly, neither reason for considering such an action is acceptable. I question the legal validity of allowing industry to assist the agency in writing a rulemaking proposal and consider it an utter and complete abdication of EPA’s responsibility to protect the water and people of this country.”

“It is not surprising that the president’s proposed 30 percent cut to EPA’s fiscal year 2018 budget and the loss of 20percent of its workforce would constrain the agency’s ability to function as it is obligated to do,” Carper continued. “However, the solution to that problem is not to outsource the development of rules designed to protect the air, water and public health to the polluters themselves. I urge you in the strongest possible terms to disavow this reported industry plan, if true, and recommit yourself to ensuring that EPA’s budget and workforce are maintained at levels necessary to perform its vital mission of protecting human health and our environment.”

To better understand the agency’s plan for re-writing the Clean Water Rule, Carper asked that Pruitt provide responses to specific requests no later than May 12.

In February, President Donald Trump signed an executive order allowing Pruitt to abandon the critical clean water protections included in the final rule. Carper, along with five of his EPW colleagues, sent a letter to Pruitt in March asking the administrator to address the apparent conflict of interest regarding his participation in EPA’s review of the Clean Water Rule, which Pruitt sued to overturn as Oklahoma’s attorney general. Pruitt has yet to respond to that March 21 letter.

Full text of the letter can be found at bit.ly/2oOUQZV.