By Rachel Leven
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ( EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt doesn't hide his contempt for how the agency has been run, but does profess to care about one of its key programs: Superfund, which oversees the cleanup of the nation's worst toxic-waste sites. In April, he toured a site in East Chicago, Indiana, contaminated with lead and arsenic, and told residents, "We are going to get this right."
The following month, Pruitt—Oklahoma's attorney general before he joined the EPA—tapped one of his former donors, banker Albert "Kell" Kelly, to find ways to accelerate and improve Superfund cleanups. Kelly started by consulting career staff members —often-knowledgeable officials who work at the agency regardless of who holds the White House. But then Kelly closed off the process, conferring with Pruitt to produce a final plan that altered or excluded many of the staffers' suggestions. Gone, for example, was the idea that EPA officials be identified early on to lead discussions with communities on how contaminated land should be used after cleanup.