EPA requested 24/7 safety for Pruitt on day one, inside watchdog says

Clay Curtis
May 16, 2018

Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt is appearing before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee, and lawmakers are raising questions about his spending habits, security precautions and large raises to some aides.

Most of the committee's six Democratic members have vehemently opposed Pruitt's efforts to roll back climate and pollution regulations introduced under Democratic former President Barack Obama, and have seized on the controversies around Pruitt's conduct to call for his resignation.

"Some of the criticism is unfounded and exaggerated", Pruitt said in front of the 13-member Senate Appropriations Committee's subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies in a hearing meant to focus on EPA's 2019 budget.

Other emails - including one from Nancy Beck, the former chemical industry lobbyist who now heads EPA's chemical safety office - indicate that the EPA and Pentagon have sought to get the budget office to persuade the ATSDR to allow interagency review of the proposal before it is released.

Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) also asked Pruitt directly if he personally asked for 24/7 security.

"Well, they better, or I'm going to be calling for Pruitt to resign, because I'm done playing around with this", Grassley said on a call, The Hill reports. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, kicked off the hearing by expressing concern that allegations over Pruitt's ethical missteps are overshadowing the Trump administration's pro-business regulatory rollbacks.

"Unfortunately, I am concerned that numerous important policy efforts you are engaged in are being overshadowed because of issues related to you and your management of agency", she said.

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Elkins Jr. said the decision was made by the agency's Office of Criminal Enforcement, Forensics and Training after being informed that Pruitt had requested that such protection begin once he was confirmed as administrator. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss) said she was "most impressed" with his push to ease regulations and clean up a contaminated site in her state. The seemingly unending stream of negative reports about Pruitt's behavior drew the ire of some GOP senators and even staff at the White House.

Asked Friday if he still had confidence in the EPA chief, Trump told reporters, "I do".

"They are looking at very subtle effects like increased risk of obesity for children exposed in womb, lowered immune response, and childhood vaccines becoming not as effective", Dave Andrews, a senior scientist with the Environmental Work Group, told the news agency.

On the legal defense fund, Pruitt said his attorney was working with the Government Accountability Office to make sure it was run properly.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the White House attempted to block the publication of a federal study on a nationwide water-contamination crisis earlier this year, after an aide warned it would cause a "public relations nightmare".

Pruitt has also said that he has stopped routinely flying first class, something the agency had previously defended as a way to help him avoid threats from the public.

Pruitt says his staff shouldn't have issued the tweet.

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