Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

EPA Chief Pruitt Admits to Breaking Law in Senate Hearing, Democrats Say

Politics
EPA Chief Pruitt Admits to Breaking Law in Senate Hearing, Democrats Say
New Mexico Senator Tom Udall said the free labor Scott Pruitt received constituted an illegal gift. C-SPAN screen shot

Scandal-ridden Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt faced his third congressional hearing in less than a month Wednesday, admitting to an act that Democrats say broke federal law, The New York Times reported.


In the hearing, which was supposed to be a routine budget hearing conducted by the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on the environment, Pruitt admitted that one of his employees, Millan Hupp, had worked for free searching for a place for him to live in Washington, DC. The leading Democrat on the subcommittee, New Mexico Senator Tom Udall, said the free labor constituted a gift. Federal officials are prohibited by law from receiving gifts of more than $10 from employees.

Pruitt also admitted to establishing a legal defense fund to pay for 12 federal investigations into his management of and spending practices at the EPA.

Further, he made a claim that directly contradicted an email cited by Udall, CNN reported.

In the 2017 email, released Wednesday by Democratic Senators Tom Carper (DE) and Sheldon Whitehouse (RI), former EPA security chief Pasquale "Nino" Perrotta wrote agency staffers that Pruitt preferred his motorcade use lights and sirens for non-emergency drives.

Pruitt insisted after being pressed by Udall that the use of lights and sirens was not his personal preference but rather agency policy.

When asked if he requested the use of lights and sirens, he responded, "No, I don't recall that happening," CNN reported.

Like Pruitt's previous testimonies, Wednesday's questions focused more on Pruitt's spending decisions and less on the actual deregulatory policies he has implemented as EPA head.

This shift in focus was pointed out by subcommittee chair Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

"I'm being asked, really constantly asked, to comment on housing and security and travel," she said, according to The New York Times. "Instead of seeing articles about efforts to return your agency to its core mission, I'm reading articles about your interactions with the industries that you regulate."

Udall did issue criticisms hinting that Pruitt's ethical missteps—such as renting a condo from energy lobbyists at below-market rates—and pro-industry policy decisions were connected.

"You have used your office to enrich yourself at the expense of the American taxpayer and public health and such abuses have led to several investigations," Udall said, as CNN reported.

After Murkowski's opening criticism, Republican senators did not push back on Pruitt's answers.

Pruitt vaguely acknowledged that he "would not make the same decisions again," but shifted blame for some of his spending missteps, such as the installation of a $43,000 soundproof phone booth, onto EPA rules that he said did not adequately control for spending abuses. He has since instituted a policy that any expenditure over $5,000 will be reviewed by the EPA's chief of staff and chief financial officer, The New York Times reported.

Scaling up offshore renewable energy is one of the ways that governments can improve ocean sustainability efforts. BerndBrueggemann / Getty Images

On Wednesday, governments responsible for 40 percent of the world's coastlines and 20 percent of global fisheries announced a series of new commitments that comprise the world's biggest ocean sustainability initiative.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sheep like these will no longer be exported from England and Wales for slaughter under a proposed ban. Chris Jackson / Getty Images

The UK has taken steps toward becoming the first European country to ban the export of live animals for slaughter.

Read More Show Less

Trending

A group of climate activists that have been cycling from the North of the country in stages to draw attention to the climate case are arriving to the Court of Justice on the day that the climate lawsuit against Shell starts in The Hague, on December 1st, 2020. Romy Arroyo Fernandez / NurPhoto / Getty Images

By Julia Conley

Representing more than 17,000 claimants who support climate action, the international organization Friends of the Earth on Tuesday opened its case against fossil fuel giant Shell at The Hague by demanding that a judge order the corporation to significantly reduce its carbon emissions in the next decade.

Read More Show Less
Eat Just, Inc. announced that its cultured chicken has been approved for sale in Singapore as an ingredient in chicken bites. The company has developed other cultured chicken formats as well. Eat Just

As concern mounts over the environmental impacts of animal agriculture, Singapore has issued the world's first regulatory approval for lab-grown meat.

Read More Show Less
Wildfires are seen burning out of control on November 30, 2020 on Fraser Island, Australia. Queensland Fire and Emergency Services / Getty Images

The world's largest sand island has been on fire for the past six weeks due to a campfire, and Australia's firefighters have yet to prevent flames from destroying the fragile ecosystem.

Read More Show Less