PRESCOTT, Ariz. — Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake told a gathering of business officials Thursday that the new administration is restoring the balance on environmental regulations from what he called the one-sided oversight of the Obama Administration.
The Republican said in a speech at an event arranged by the Arizona Manufacturers Council in Prescott that “it’s a changed environment” from a year ago.
“We have a new administration, a new approach when it comes to resource issues, when it comes to the relationship between the federal government and the states and how we deal with issues like water and power generation, natural resources, grazing, forest health,” Flake said. “We have a different and new approach and I would argue a better relationship and a better chance to make progress.”
Republicans long criticized the Obama Administration on its regulations, and that’s especially true in western states. Flake and others have complained about federal rules tightening standards on ozone, mining, and others designed to limit pollution but which the GOP argued are too far-reaching and costly for their benefit.
Flake particularly praised Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt, who he said is taking a more realistic approach. He said he’s especially happy about the planned withdrawal of an EPA rule known as Waters of the United States or WOTUS regulating many more streams and wetlands.
“We cannot have a situation where protecting America’s waterways involves regulating every dry ditch bed in Arizona,” Flake said. “And that’s about what the WOTUS rule would have done.”
Flake has been making trips around Arizona during the Congressional summer recess, and on Thursday he also toured the area south of Prescott where a major wildfire destroyed six homes and forced thousands of residents to evacuate in June.
The state’s junior senator is up for re-election next year and has been taking heavy criticism from some in his own party for the book he just released, which criticized his fellow Republicans for letting President Donald Trump lead the country away from conservative principles and staying silent as “the government of the United States has been made dysfunctional at the highest levels.”
Flake drew laughs Thursday when he referred to that controversy.
“I don’t always agree with this administration – there’s a book out there,” Flake said. “But I can tell you on the regulatory front and the relationship between the federal government and the state on these issues I’m pleased with their response and their ability to sit down with us.”