It was clear from his confirmation hearing that nimbleness with words has been part of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency nominee Scott Pruitt’s rapid rise. He dodged questions, used clever phrasing, and contradicted past positions when they were inconvenient.
But Pruitt’s ethical slickness went beyond just presenting a camera-ready version of himself. His answers to some of the most important questions regarding his conflicts of interests were deeply misleading.
Pruitt’s long history of close ties to the industries he would oversee at the EPA is well-known.
He’s taken large contributions from energy interests for his campaigns and raised millions more for partisan political groups. He’s routinely accepted money from companies that joined him lawsuits that would benefit those companies. He’s even had industry lawyers write letters for him, which he put on official stationary and sent to federal agencies.
But at this week’s hearing he attempted to deny some of the disturbing elements of those alliances. Consider this exchange with Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island.
Pruitt dodged money questions
Whitehouse described contributions made by big energy companies to the Republican Attorneys General Association, a political group Pruitt helped lead. The senators wanted to know if Pruitt had solicited those contributions.
WHITEHOUSE: “Did you ask them for money?”
PRUITT: “As I indicated, I attended fundraising events…”
WHITEHOUSE: “But that’s different. Attending fundraising is one thing, asking them is my question. Did you ask them for money?”
PRUITT: “I mean, specifically, you’d have to ask about certain…certain entities…I don’t know if…”
WHITEHOUSE: “Those are the entities: Koch Industries, Murray Energy, ExxonMobil, Devon Energy.”
PRUITT: “I did not ask of…ah…ah…Koch…or…or….what were the other ones?”
WHITEHOUSE: “Murray Energy, Exxon Mobil, Devon Energy.”
PRUITT: “I have not asked them for money for – on behalf of – RAGA.”
Pruitt’s answer dodges the important truth. Letters [PDF] obtained through an open records request show Pruitt’s chief of staff had, in fact, asked for help from Devon Energy to fund the Republican Attorneys General Association.
Crystal Drwenski wrote to Devon lobbyists asking them to intercede with the American Petroleum Institute – a trade organization for Devon Energy and the oil industry – to get API to buy a “membership,” a euphemism for giving a contribution in RAGA. So Pruitt had not solicited these funds, but his top operatives did.
His answer is the kind of clever legal dodge that does nothing to inspire confidence in his ethical behavior.
A cozy relationship with polluters
The same is true of his refusal to reveal anything about his meetings at a West Virginia resort with those same companies during a RAGA conference, or his office’s failure to answer an open records request – filed two years ago – for more recent communications between his office and major energy industry interests.
What we do know of Pruitt’s conduct provides little reassurance. His hand-in-glove relationship with polluting industries is further revealed in communications with a major Washington law firm, Hunton & Williams.
This firm is well known for representing the Utility Air Regulatory Group, a front group for polluting power companies that has repeatedly fought clean air protections.
Open records act documents show [PDF] Hunton & Williams systematically shepherding Oklahoma Attorney General comments opposing EPA’s carbon pollution standards for new power plants – helping recruit “a very good turnout of states” to join as well as providing background materials and formatting and hand written edits.
They also show Hunton & Williams staff actively facilitating Pruitt’s Summit on Federalism and the Future of Fossil Fuels – arranging conference calls, recruiting attendees, suggesting agendas and topics – together with Andrew Miller, another energy industry representative.
For those already concerned about Pruitt’s opposition to rules limiting air pollution, the hearing was not reassuring. For those who didn’t know of his record of representing the interests of industry above all others, perhaps they learned something new.
This is related to your unanimous attack on President Trump's nomination for head of the EPA.
I believe that this is Trump's way of decentralizing what the EPA is supposed to be doing. The action and laws undertaken by the federal government are not enforced by said entity but are passed on to the governors of the states. It is the governor of Idaho who won't enforce the protection of wolves; if he doesn't, nobody will.
Then, why pour money into the pockets of national bureaucrats? They pass laws and dictate actions the states may simply ignore. You should direct your actions and resources to the parties involved in carrying out the responsibilities you wish to have imposed.
My wife and I have been supporters of the NWF for many years and have donated what could (we are retired and on a fixed income, alas); as small as, perforce, our donations are, we would prefer that money be spent where it counts.
Actually, in view of the areas of responsibility indicated above, it is our opinion that the EPA should be dissolved, i.e. completely eliminated. This does not mean we will not continue to support NWF as long as was can do so.
So if I'm comprehending you correctly, you're saying because a specific governor chooses to not uphold a policy enacted by the EPA, often times to the detriment of the well being of their states people and resources, we should just stop trying on a national level?
Does the air we breath abide by state lines? Don't answer that one, it was rhetorical and I already know the answer. The answer is no...
In reply to This is related to your by Neil G. Barclay
The EPA has very little or no control beyond national parks, where it has no enforcement power. In 2014, the good old EPA turned the fate of gray wolves over to the states and the slaughter is mounting: in Montana (even Yellowstone), Utah (preparations pending), Wyoming, Idaho, South Dakota and the Midwest. What is the EPA going to do in this case? Send in the National Guard?
In reply to So if I'm comprehending you by Benjamin Barrey
Amaaaaaaazing ! one of the most informative topics I have ever passed through, expressed with simply organized technique.
By the way, you can check The first issue of "Environmental Sciences and Sustainable Development" journal
Keep up the fine work, guys.
Stop Mr. Pruitt confirmation to head of the EPA. His history confirms that he will not protect the best interests of citizens of the US. His interests appear to be the highest bidders...unacceptable.
Candice VanRunkleJanuary 21, 2017 at 2:56 pm