Trump EPA 2
EPA head defends Trump order on water rules
01:37 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

"We have many priorities at the agency. We must focus on those," he said

Pruitt indicated he is comfortable with budget cuts

Washington CNN  — 

The new head of the Environmental Protection Agency declined to say Tuesday whether he would forbid EPA scientists from studying the human connection to climate change.

Scott Pruitt said research on global warming would not be especially prioritized over other EPA fact-finding work, saying that their scientific mission would be centered on rule-making.

“We have many priorities at the agency. We must focus on those,” he told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on “The Situation Room,” rattling off other needs, such as improving air quality. He declined to answer repeated questions as to whether he would “allow” climate-change research.

Pruitt said there needs to be more debate on how much human impact is responsible for climate change.

The EPA is preparing for deep cuts to its agency’s budget, with the White House pitching a 25% reduction at the beginning of the budget process. Pruitt indicated he was comfortable with the cuts, but that grants to states, which he said accounted for half the agency’s spending, would be protected.

He did, however, decline to spell out what specifically would be cut if not infrastructure grants, saying that the administration was only starting the funding debates with Congress. He would only say that rolling back EPA regulations would be “our focus in the near-term.”

“The focus will be on making sure that the states are adequately funded with water infrastructure and these grant proposals,” he said. “We’ll work through the budgeting process to protect those dollars.”

Pruitt, the former attorney general of Oklahoma, also weighed in on a number of newly released emails that showed a cozy relationship between his office and the state’s fossil fuel industry by defending the steps he took.

“That was about the state’s interest, not on behalf of any particular industry or any particular business,” he said.