During a speech in Iowa last week, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich called for the replacement of the Environmental Protection Agency with an organization that could better work with businesses and embraces the future of science and technology:

Gingrich, who has made several visits to Iowa recently, said the EPA was founded on sound ideas but has become a traditional Washington bureaucracy. Gingrich had previously mentioned his desire to change the EPA, but Tuesday’s explanation was the first time he made a specific proposal for replacing the agency, Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond said.

“We need to have an agency that is first of all limited, but cooperates with the 50 states,” Gingrich said. “The EPA is based on bureaucrats centered in Washington issuing regulations and litigation and basically opposing things.”

EPA spokesman Brenden Gilfillan in Washington declined to comment on Gingrich’s statements.

Gingrich denied his proposal would result in environmental damage, saying he would replace the EPA with what he called the Environmental Solution Agency.

“I think you have an agency which would get up every morning, very much like the National Institutes for Health or the National Science Foundation, and try to figure out what do we need to do today to get a better environment that also gets us a better economy,” he said.

Gingrich also said his proposed agency would pursue the development of a clean coal and rewrite regulations governing the development of small nuclear plants.

William Ruckelshaus, who RN appointed to lead the newly created agency, gives a similar assessment. While the EPA met the early challenges of air and water pollution head on, Ruckelshaus contends,  it now needs to become flexible enough to deal with new issues as they arise:

I believe that if we are going to address climate change successfully, the top-down, standard-setting enforcement process of the 1970s has to be rethought. It worked just fine when the goal was clear: cutting the amount of specific pollutants from a finite number of industrial and municipal entities. But climate change—which involves the behavior of all of us who heat our homes and drive our cars, not just business and industry—is too big and too complicated for something as blunt as this approach.

Instead, I believe we are going to have to make the substances that cause the problem (for example, carbon or methane) cost more. In other words, if you want people to use less of something, tax it, and then give society flexibility in achieving the desired reductions. If we ever get serious about climate change, that’s what we will do.

The founding of the EPA was the subject of the Foundation’s third Richard Nixon Legacy Forum, Richard Nixon and the Rise of the Environment, which Ruckelshaus participated in along with two other leading environmental officials in the Nixon White House, John C. Whitaker and Christopher DeMuth. Click here to watch.