Trump's Environmental Protection Agency chief, Scott Pruitt. At least five EPA officials were reassigned or demoted after raising concerns about Scott Pruitt’s spending. Photo: Aaron Bernstein / Reuters

By Oliver Milman
7 April 2018

(The Guardian) – The week at the Environmental Protection Agency has been a brutal low point in what many staff members refer to as the most difficult year in its near half-century history. An avalanche of allegations of ethical misconduct by the EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, has heaped embarrassment upon a watchdog struggling to adapt to the industry obeisance demanded by the Trump administration.

“This sucks. It sucks big,” said a senior EPA official who asked not to be named. “People are so done with these folks. We wanted and waited for some adults to show up. But the relentless tide of bullshit from Pruitt and his cronies is tough to deal with.”

Pruitt was already attempting to swat away criticism over his penchant for luxury travel, having spent $105,000 on first-class flights in his first year in the job, and his unusual preoccupation with personal safety, having pulled a group of EPA staff from investigating environmental crimes to become his 24-hour security accompaniment. He had also spent more than $50,000 on sweeping his office for listening bugs, installing biometric locks and constructing a soundproof booth in which to take and receive calls.

A series of revelations over the past week have seemingly pushed Pruitt close to being fired. There was the Washington DC townhouse where he stayed last year, renting a room for just $50 a night from the wife of an energy lobbyist. Occasionally his daughter would join him, to help make eggs with avocado for breakfast.

This was followed by evidence that Pruitt had used an obscure provision of the Safe Drinking Water Act to give two favoured aides, the counsel Sarah Greenwalt and the scheduling director Millan Hupp, raises of almost $57,000 and $28,000 respectively, after the White House refused them.

The pay issue is a “big sock in the gut” for EPA staff, according to an agency source, due to the departure of hundreds of employees and reduced bonuses for those who remain.

The alleged malfeasance then descended almost into farce: according to the New York Times, at least five EPA officials were reassigned or demoted after they raised concerns about Pruitt’s spending, including a request for a $100,000-a-month charter aircraft membership and $70,000 for two office desks, one of them bulletproof, as well as Pruitt’s desire to use sirens to sweep aside DC traffic so he could reach Le Diplomate, a French restaurant.

If the allegations are true then “this isn’t what taxpayer dollars are for”, said Janet McCabe, a former EPA assistant administrator.

“This isn’t the life I’m used to living as a government person,” McCabe said. “You have to be scrupulous about even any whiff of a financial relationship with anyone being regulated. How can you trust a regulatory system when people aren’t held to very strict standards of ethics?” [more]

EPA insiders bemoan low point in agency's history: 'People are so done'


  1. Dennis Mitchell said...

    At one time the grand old party led the world in environmental legislation. Now they have joined ranks with the Democrats as corporate whores. We need to quit voting for these evil people. Our culture is sick.


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