Climate 411

Why Scott Pruitt can’t be trusted

When the next Pruitt scandal breaks, he or his staff may try to provide an explanation, but as the record shows, you can count on Scott Pruitt and his EPA spokespeople being misleading in his initial response.  

Here’s the proof.

ScandalScott Pruitt’s landlord had business before the EPA

Pruitt’s first explanation:

In a Fox News interview, Pruitt said “Mr. Hart has no client that has business before this agency.”


Following this interview it came out that Scott Pruitt’s EPA signed off on a pipeline expansion from Enbridge, a company represented by Mr. Hart’s firm Williams & Jensen. Recent reports also showed that Mr. Hart and executives from his client Smithfield Foods met with Administrator Pruitt while Pruitt lived in the apartment Hart’s wife owned.

Scandal: Sweetheart deal on a lobbyist-owned condo.

Pruitt paid $50/night, only for the nights he was in town to stay at the townhouse of a prominent lobbyist.

Pruitt’s first explanation:

“When you think of the townhouse, the rent last year. The owner of that is an Oklahoman. I’ve known him for years. He… has no clients that are before this agency, nor does his wife have any clients that have appeared before this agency. I’ve had ethics counsel here at the agency, the office of general counsel and ethics officials review the lease. They’ve actually looked at the lease… If you look at the lease it’s very clear it’s market value.”


This living arrangement seeps of corruption, including the help of a staffer to find the housing. The clients firm Williams & Jensen does have matters before the EPA. While Pruitt stayed there, the EPA cleared a hurdle to a new client’s pipeline being built, As for the ethics review, EPA’s top ethics official has since said he lacked key facts about the arrangement when making his judgment. And as the Washingtonian found, $50 a night at market rate doesn’t quite get you a room as nice as he likely had.

Scandal: Excessive raises to close staffers

The White House rejected Pruitt’s request for large raises for two staffers who came to the EPA from Oklahoma with the Administrator. After the requests were declined, EPA used an obscure provision of the Safe Drinking Water Act to provide the raises, totaling over $80,000 in raises to relatively junior staffers.

Pruitt’s first explanation:

He just learned about the raises, months after the request happened


It’s almost impossible to think that Pruitt wouldn’t know about exorbitant raises given to colleagues he works with closely. The Associated Press reported that Pruitt approached the White House about the raises, and the Washington Post has confirmed he approved them.

Scandal: First class flights costing over $100,000 at taxpayers’ expense

Pruitt often flew first class or charter and military planes at very high cost to taxpayers.

Pruitt and EPA staff explanation:

“Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt said security decisions made by others have dictated he fly first class or on military jets at taxpayer expense.

“Unfortunately… we’ve had some incidents on travel dating back to when I first started serving in the March-April timeframe,” Pruitt said during an interview at the New Hampshire Union Leader on Tuesday.”


Security experts disagree that first class is any safer, and a bipartisan group of Senators including Fischer and Kennedy commented they fly coach.

Scandal: EPA cited a debunked study funded by the trucking industry in its decision to weaken rules on super-polluting trucks.

A now-debunked study composed by a Professor at Tennessee Tech with ties to industry was cited in EPA’s proposal to weaken rules on trucks that pollute at rates considerably higher than regular models.

EPA’s first explanation:

When it was revealed that the study was flawed and undertaken for political reasons, EPA said it “did not rely upon the study or even quote directly from it” in supporting the loophole for super polluting trucks.


EPA’s proposed rule in the Federal Register said, “In support, the petitioners included as an exhibit to their petition a letter from the President of the Tennessee Technological University (‘‘Tennessee Tech’’), which described a study recently conducted by Tennessee Tech.”

Tennessee Tech has withdrawn the study after it discovered the study was sponsored by Fitzgerald, the nation’s biggest glider manufacturer, and its research was conducted at a Fitzgerald facility. The EPA may still finalize the loophole for gliders in the coming months

Scandal: $43k phone booth installed in Pruitt’s office

Pruitt had a secure communications facility installed next to his office for $43,000, despite the fact that EPA already has a secure communications facility on another floor. The EPA Inspector General is investigating.

EPA explanation:

“What you are referring to is a secured communication area in the administrator’s office so secured calls can be received and made,” EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman said in a statement. “Federal agencies need to have one of these so that secured communications, not subject to hacking from the outside, can be held. It’s called a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF). This is something which a number, if not all, Cabinet offices have and EPA needs to have updated.”


The booth was charged as a “privacy booth for the administrator,” rather than for security. However, “according to former agency employees, the EPA has long maintained a SCIF on a separate floor from the administrator’s office, where officials with proper clearances can go to share information classified as secret.”

Scandal: EPA contracted a partisan firm to monitor staffers, said they were just clipping news

A partisan political firm, Definers Public Affairs with an EPA no-bid contract to do “media monitoring” investigated the personal political leanings of EPA employees suspected of not supporting the Trump administration.

EPA’s first explanation:

An E.P.A. official vehemently defended the $120,000 contract to Definers, saying it filled a need in the media office for an improved clipping service.

“Definers was awarded the contract to do our press clips at a rate that is $87,000 cheaper than our previous vendor, and they are providing no other services,” a spokesman for the E.P.A., Jahan Wilcox, wrote in an email.


EPA decided to drop the Definers contract after news broke that one of the company’s top lawyers had previously been digging for EPA employees who had criticized the Trump administration.

This post was updated on April 23rd. 

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EDF Congratulates the President on Re-Election Amid Increased Need for Climate Action

EDF would like to congratulate President Obama on his re-election. In the wake of super storm Sandy and with the election campaigns behind us, it is more important than ever for the president and elected officials to address the increasing threats from climate change, a pivotal issue of our time.

In a statement, EDF President Fred Krupp said:

“Congratulations to President Obama on his re-election to a second term, and to all of those who will be serving in the 113th Congress. We look forward to working with them to solve our country’s most pressing environmental problems, including global climate change. As the President declared last night, ‘we want our children to live in an America … that isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet.’

“Exit polls confirm that for millions of American voters, Hurricane Sandy and climate change were decisive factors in this election. As the historic storm just reminded us, we have no time to waste; we must get serious about climate solutions in order to protect our loved ones and communities from terrible impacts — extreme weather disasters, droughts, heat waves, and other dangerous consequences of global warming. Especially in the wake of Sandy, which demonstrated that doing nothing about climate change is much costlier than taking action, this issue clearly should be a top priority for our leaders in government.”

Earlier this week EDF VP Nat Keohane discussed the pressing challenges and priorities for the next president in regard to climate action in Bloomberg Businessweek.

He said:

“…The magnitude and urgency of the challenge have not diminished. If we needed any reminder of that fact, Hurricane Sandy should have provided it—especially coming on the heels of devastating drought, record-breaking temperatures through the spring and summer, and a record low in the extent of Arctic sea ice.

“…Addressing global warming will be politically challenging—but presidents are not elected to do the easy things, and political realities are not set in stone. The first step to tackling climate change is to start talking about it, not just once in a while but routinely, as a fact of life rather than a special-interest issue.

“The next president must build public understanding of the issue, connecting the dots between our own actions and the extreme weather we are already seeing. He must engage folks from across the political spectrum on the possible solutions. And he must be willing to spend political capital to get something done.”

See Keohane’s full Bloomberg Businessweek article for specific steps the president could take to address the growing threat of climate change.

Posted in Climate Change Legislation, News, Policy, What Others are Saying / Comments are closed