By Jay N. Lehr

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has grown into a leviathan, expanding its authority far beyond the restrictions established by law and extending its activities to issues best left to the states.

Indeed, the EPA has become one of the most powerful agencies in our government, limiting economic growth and people's use of their property with little legislative oversight.

President-elect Trump was right when he said, "Overregulation presents one of the greatest barriers to entry into markets and one of the greatest costs to businesses that are trying to stay competitive." EPA regulations cost the nation's economy trillions of dollars each year.

And, with rare exceptions, EPA regulations implemented after the agency's first decade have failed to improve the environment.

That has occurred because the science used to support the thousands of new regulations is generally without merit. EPA hires pseudo-scientists to support any directive it chooses, continuously stifling the U.S. economy at the behest of radical environmental lobbyists, who largely control the agency.

Current EPA administrator Gina McCarthy exemplifies the agency's disturbed culture. McCarthy is an explicit climate warrior who has claimed, "Climate change is the greatest threat of our time, and the time for action is now."

In light of that belief, McCarthy explicitly stated her intention to act as an environmental dictator: "I will tell you that I didn't go to Washington to sit around and wait for congressional action. Never done that before, and don't plan to in the future."

Instead of carrying out the laws enacted by Congress, McCarthy has taken on the role of policymaker, pushing regulations such as the Mercury and Air Toxics rule, the Waters of the United States rule, and the Clean Power Plan, all of which have either been thrown out or put on hold by federal courts or the U.S. Supreme Court for going far beyond what the law allows.

Multiple reports by the EPA's own inspector general and the Senate and the House show McCarthy has repeatedly violated federal law and EPA guidelines by collaborating with activist groups to lobby for laws and regulations restricting the oil and gas industry.

McCarthy has encouraged EPA employees to work with environmental lobbyists in secret, holding meetings outside EPA's headquarters in order to avoid leaving a record of their conversations.

On Trump's first day in office, he should appoint a new EPA administrator, steeped in scientific knowledge, who sees the job as that of an adviser, not a super legislator, to advise him on which environmental regulations should be nullified to the benefit of the nation's environment and its economy.

In addition, the new president should support pending legislation requiring that any regulation imposing a more than $100 million impact on the economy, or $10 million on any particular state, be approved by a full vote of Congress before taking force. If Congress rejects any such regulations, EPA should have to go back to the drawing board.

Congress and the president should also begin a process to efficiently dismantle the federal EPA over a five-year period, turning over the agency's duties and responsibilities to a new agency made up of representatives from each of the 50 states' environmental agencies.

Different states face different environmental issues. What resources to expend and what problems to prioritize would be better addressed by people representing the states than by bureaucrats in Washington.

Such actions would do more to grow energy production and the economy than almost any others the new president could take.

Jay N. Lehr is the science director at the Heartland Institute, a free-market solutions think tank in Illinois. jlehr@heartland.org