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Minnesotans' reactions mixed on EPA chief departure

Former Environmental Protection Agency administrator, Scott Pruitt.

ST. PAUL—U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar left no doubt about what she thought of the federal Environmental Protection Agency administrator's resignation: "Finally."

That was the Democrat's prompt Thursday, July 5, reaction on Twitter to President Donald Trump's tweet that he had accepted Scott Pruitt's resignation.

U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., was almost as succinct: "Good riddance."

Democrats were elated with the resignation, saying Pruitt eliminated too many rules that protect the environment, not to mention dozens of allegations that he improperly managed the agency. Republicans, meanwhile, were more reserved in the aftermath of the announcement because they generally support Pruitt's attempt to remove many federal regulations.

Pruitt is credited by Republicans, and blamed by Democrats, for beginning the most extensive rollback of environmental regulations in EPA history.

The leader of Minnesota's Republican-leaning Farm Bureau praised Pruitt's attack on "burdensome" regulations, but was not happy with his failure to back biofuels like ethanol and biodiesel.

"That is an important way we add value to local communities," Farm Bureau President Kevin Paap said about fuels made from crops.

Although Pruitt said he supported biofuels, Paap said he allowed many refineries to skip rules that they mix corn-based ethanol with gasoline. "That was frustrating," he said.

Pruitt is a former attorney general of Oklahoma, an oil-producing state.

On the other hand, Paap said, farmers appreciated Pruitt listening to them about what they see as unneeded regulations.

"I don't know how many times I have sat down and met with him, but certainly more than any other (EPA) administrator," Papp said.

Paap and 49 other state Farm Bureau presidents were scheduled to meet with Pruitt during a Washington conference next week. Paap said he hopes to meet with interim administrator Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist, during his Washington trip.

Paap was generally happy with Pruitt, although he had concerns. President Gary Wertish of the Democratic-leaning Minnesota Farmers' Union, however, was more unhappy with the ex-administrator, but he had some good things to say.

"It never hurts to take a look at regulations," Wertish said. However, he added, the regulation attacks were more sound bites than real help.

"Farmers' Union supports getting rid of much of the red tape," Wertish said, and he credited Pruitt for doing some of that. But Pruitt's lack of ethics alone should have got him fired, Wertish said.

Since Trump apparently liked much of what Pruitt did, Wertish said he is concerned that EPA policy will change little with a new leader.

"Farmers just need a fair shake," he said. "That is all we ask for."

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.