In the months leading up to the reveal of his $25,000 soundproof booth, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Scott Pruitt was apparently up to no good. On numerous occasions, according to a schedule just leaked by The Washington Post, Pruitt met with CEOs and lobbyists from automobile, mining, and fossil fuel industries, all with troubling results.
Unlike the secret business Pruitt evidently plans to conduct in his booth, the April-to-September schedule reveals that he devoted most of his time to these interest groups. Not only that, but he held each meeting shortly before making key decisions in favor of them. Pruitt met with only 2 environmental groups and 1 public health group during the 5-month period.
Looking back on other anti-public health actions during his short tenure, this imbalance of priorities only emphasizes pressing concerns over his attitude to public health.
Scott Pruitt’s Industry-Packed Agenda
April alone was a busy month for the administrator. Meeting participants included FirstEnergy, a leading electric utility on the verge of shutting down coal plants and in need of financial or regulatory relief; the National Mining Association, an industry lobbyist; representatives of rural cooperatives, whose customers rely on coal plants; and representatives of General Motors and industry lobbyist Auto Alliance, who sought rollbacks in fuel-efficiency standards.
In September, true to an industry coalition’s request, Pruitt moved to relax federal requirements for toxic coal waste. In August, he reopened fuel-efficiency rules, again from a more lenient standpoint. He also announced that month plans to revisit greenhouse gas emissions standards for commercial “gliders” (engine-less trucks) after the industry raised “significant issues” about the rules. According to Clean Air Watch president Frank O’Donnell, however, these issues were attempts to use their lack of engines as an excuse to evade stricter air pollution standards.
“It is a classic special-interest loophole, one that would mean dirtier air and public health damage,” he said.
The pattern was similar throughout the following months. Within weeks of hearing out stakeholder groups, Pruitt made promises to undo Obama rules that spelled good news for public health and bad news for business.
We Know Pruitt Loves Pollutants, but the Rest Is a Mystery
If someone unaware of Scott Pruitt’s occupation were to glance over his schedule, they might assume he was an angel investor for companies collapsing under Obama-era safeguards. The news that he is in fact employed to protect public health might even seem like a bad joke.
Unfortunately, the joke gets worse. The Washington Post also reported last week that Pruitt took at least 4 trips on private planes, racking up $58,000 at taxpayer expense. The EPA declared these flights as necessary and taken under special circumstances that prevented commercial flying, but Pruitt’s reasons for these trips is unknown. Meanwhile, the Administrator appeared to explore the possibility of closing regional EPA offices due to budget constraints.
Besides the fact that it contradicts the “need” to fly in style, this closure would be a disturbing move to shut down key players in environmental oversight. Regional staff have been critical (albeit inefficient) in the response to identifying contaminated soil and water, for example. They are our best resource for cleaning up deadly pollutants such as lead, arsenic, and asbestos, a known carcinogenic.
“Whether reviewing discharge permits for compliance with federal pollution standards and state water quality standards, or inspecting facilities to see if they are operating in compliance with their permits, we count on regional staff to provide guidance,” Democrats wrote in a plea to keep offices open.
But as we already know, Pruitt supports asbestos and other money-making toxins wreaking havoc on the environment, so why would he want to pay people to eliminate them? On the contrary, his questionable and otherwise secretive movements continue to put lives at risk.