Former aide tells Congress of extravagant spending by EPA's Scott Pruitt

Clay Curtis
April 14, 2018

Kevin Chmielewski, the EPA's deputy chief of staff and a former staffer on President Trump's campaign, told Democratic lawmakers investigating Pruitt's questionable conduct that working under him has been like a "nightmare". If the president decides to fire Pruitt, or if the EPA chief steps down, Wheeler is expected to fill in.

"The problem with the Wheeler nomination is if (Pruitt) goes tomorrow, Wheeler is in fact the administrator". "It is the EPA's job to regulate coal to protect public health and the environment".

Two Democrats on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee - Jeff Merkley of OR and Tom Carper of DE - sent a letter Tuesday to the EPA's inspector general asking the office to probe the matter.

Environment and Public Works top Democrat Thomas R. Carper of DE spoke in opposition to Wheeler's confirmation on the Senate floor, saying his nomination was "emblematic of an ethically tone-deaf administration", and that it was important to consider how Wheeler will address Pruitt's ethical lapses "because it has become clear that my Republican colleagues will not do so".

The allegations are included in a letter to Pruitt sent Thursday by five Democrats in the House and Senate, including Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., and Sen.

Directly contradicting Pruitt, Chmielewski said the administrator personally pushed through massive raises for two close aides Pruitt had brought with him from Oklahoma, where he previously served as state attorney general. "And that's a very, very serious problem", Udall said Wednesday.

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Heitkamp, who faces a tough reelection in a state won easily by President Trump, said she is confident Wheeler will "be open to working on issues important to North Dakota in a pragmatic and fair way".

They said that administrators since the Clinton administration had followed the practice of having multiple email addresses, writing to lawmakers that for "nearly two decades EPA administrators have managed the agency with two email accounts".

The letter reveals that when Pruitt was planning a business trip previous year to Australia, he ignored State Department recommendations. He supports rolling back environmental regulations; but he opposes using taxpayer money to rent Scott Pruitt a private jet - and so, the EPA director removed him from his job.

In addition to his work on Capitol Hill for the climate-denying Sen. He's expected to sign Trump's ethics waiver requiring administration officials to step away from past work for two years.

Pressed by Whitehouse, Wheeler stressed that he "did not work on" the memo and said he could not remember even basic details about it. "The EPA may need to add more office space to accommodate Mr. Wheeler". In Wheeler's time with the firm Faegre Baker Daniels, he also lobbied on behalf of the uranium mining company Energy Fuels Resources, the utility Xcel Energy, the biofuel firm Growth Energy, and the liquified natural gas company Bear Head LNG. The Trump administration later carried out several of the recommended actions. Jeff Merkley of OR said they had learned that Pruitt had used at least four government email addresses at EPA, and that his staff had not been searching all of them in response to public records requests.

Pruitt and Wheeler are coming from "different standpoints" but are "focused on making fundamental reforms at the EPA", Ebell said. "They're not going to get anyone else through the Senate until after this election cycle", said Christine Todd Whitman, who headed the E.P.A. during the George W. Bush administration.

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