WASHINGTON -- EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt thinks Congress should weigh in on whether carbon dioxide is a harmful pollutant that should be regulated, as he vowed to reduce "regulatory uncertainty" for U.S. industry.
In an interview Thursday with CNBC, Pruitt also said the Trump administration will make an announcement on fuel efficiency standards for light vehicles "very soon," stressing that he and President Donald Trump believe current standards were rushed through.
Trump campaigned on a promise to roll back environmental regulations ushered in by former President Barack Obama, including those aimed at combating climate change. He framed his stand as aimed at boosting U.S. businesses, including the oil and gas drilling and coal mining industries.
The new EPA chief said he was committed to ensuring thorough processes for environmental rules and regulations to reduce "regulatory uncertainty."
The Supreme Court unleashed a fury of regulation and litigation when it ruled in 2007 that greenhouse gases are an air pollutant that can be regulated under the Clean Air Act. Two years later, the EPA declared carbon dioxide and five other heat-trapping gases to be pollutants.
"Nowhere in the continuum, nowhere in the equation, has Congress spoken. The legislative branch has not addressed this issue at all," he told CNBC.
Pruitt, who as Oklahoma's attorney general sued the EPA more than a dozen times on behalf of the oil-producing state, said the Supreme Court's decision should not have been viewed as permission for the EPA to regulate carbon dioxide.
"So I think all those things need to be addressed as we go forward, not least of which is the response of the legislative branch with respect to this issue," he said.
Pruitt added that he was not personally convinced that carbon dioxide pollution from burning fossil fuels such as oil, gasoline and coal, widely considered by scientists to be a main driver of climate change, is a primary contributor.
"I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact," he said. "So no, I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see."
Pruitt added that he shared Trump's view that the global climate accord agreed by nearly 200 countries in Paris in 2015 was a "bad deal." Trump promised during his campaign for the White House to pull the United States out of the accord, but has since been mostly quiet on the issue.