EPA Watchdog Blasts Former Agency Chief Scott Pruitt Over Spending on Security
Tuesday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) inspector general released a scathing account of the abuses of taxpayer money by former agency head Scott Pruitt, who resigned in disgrace after a scandal-ridden 18-month tenure. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) President Ken Cook said the appalling details confirm that Pruitt will be remembered as the worst EPA administrator in history.
"Scott Pruitt's been gone more than two months, but the swampy stench he brought to EPA continues to waft from agency headquarters," said Cook in response to the IG report. "From the moment President Trump nominated him, it was evident that Pruitt not only held the EPA's mission in contempt, but saw his post as a chance to pamper himself on the American taxpayer's dime."
"Only someone as ethically and morally vacant as Donald Trump could have picked someone like Scott Pruitt as the head of EPA," Cook added. "It is shameful that Pruitt got away with this kind of abuse of taxpayer money for as long as he did, but the inspector general's report may serve as a lesson to President Trump that no matter how brazen the corruption of his administration, the truth will come out."
In his report, Inspector Arthur A. Elkins, Jr., details Pruitt's flagrant waste of taxpayer money on the use of his 24-hour security detail, including during during family vacations and personal errands.
Specifically, the IG investigation found that the "failure to properly justify the level of protective services provided to the Administrator has allowed costs to increase from $1.6 million to $3.5 million in just 11 months." The report concluded that since EPA never conducted a threat assessment, Pruitt and agency officials assigned his large security team "without documented justification."
"What a joy ride Pruitt took courtesy of taxpayers, sirens and all," said Cook.
During Pruitt's tenure, he was instrumental in getting Trump to pull out of the Paris climate accord, and in scuttling the Clean Power Plan and Clean Water rule to help reduce air and water contamination. At the same time, Pruitt's ethical scandals mounted day by day, finally forcing Trump to show him the door.
Among Pruitt's most egregious abuses of office included his sweetheart $50-a-night condo rental from the wife of an energy lobbyist, retaliating against staff who questioned his spending and using his security detail to take him on late-night shopping jaunts around Washington in search of his favorite lotion.
"Maybe we know why Pruitt dispatched his security team to the Ritz-Carlton to buy his favorite skin lotion," observed Cook. "When Trump said help yourself to emoluments, Pruitt thought he said emollients."
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By Naomi Larsson
For centuries, the delicate silver dove has been a symbol of love and fidelity.
Biodiversity and Habitat Loss<p>Their near extinction is a symbol of the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/global-biodiversity-outlook-targets-extinction-summit-new-york-pledge/a-54932895" target="_blank">biodiversity crisis</a> in the UK, largely driven by habitat destruction. Britain is now one of the countries with the most <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/future-of-UK-nature#:~:text=The%20UK%20is%20one%20of,than%20half%20are%20in%20decline" target="_blank">depleted nature</a> in the world according to the World Wildlife Fund. Half its plant and animal species are in decline and more than <a href="https://www.rspb.org.uk/about-the-rspb/about-us/media-centre/press-releases/let-nature-sing-wales/#:~:text=a%20natural%20tragedy.-,Over%2040%20million%20birds%20have%20vanished%20from%20UK%20skies%20in,unaware%20of%20the%20impending%20danger" target="_blank">40 million birds</a> have vanished in just half a century.</p><p>"[Turtle doves] are the canary in the [coal] mine because there are all these other species before it and after it," said Tree. "It's an umbrella for all the other species that are heading that way."</p><p>Turtle doves migrate south through Europe to sub-Saharan Africa between July and September, ending up in dry woodland and farmland areas of countries like Mali and Senegal for winter. </p><p>Droughts in West Africa and the Sahel region are believed to have contributed to the fall in turtle dove species recorded in northern Europe, with low rainfall reducing supplies of the seeds and insects the birds rely on for energy for the long journey home.</p>
Conservation and Farming<p><a href="https://www.operationturtledove.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Operation Turtle Dove,</a> a partnership project of charities including the Essex Wildlife trust, works with landowners and farmers to actively build turtle dove habitat.</p><p>Outten works with <a href="https://www.ebws.org.uk/birdsites/blue-house-farm-ewt-north-fambridge" target="_blank">Blue House Farm</a>, a 660-acre nature reserve in the UK county of Essex, where they have replicated weedy fallow plots. </p><p>"We work on it every year to make sure it's in the condition it needs to be with plants such as clovers and black medic," Outten said. "These plants are native to the landscape and produce the seed the birds feed on." </p><p>The birds eat a wide range of seeds from various plants that would have been abundant 50 or 100 years ago, added Guy Anderson, program manager for species recovery with The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). </p><p>"But it's simply true that with the gradual process of <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/farming-without-pesticides-how-can-we-make-agriculture-greener/a-52216796" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">intensifying our agricultural production</a>, the availability of those seeds has dropped and dropped," said Anderson.</p><p>Part of the project includes supplementary feeding — providing sources of food in the form of seed or grain. Under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme in England, farmers can receive financial support to create a turtle dove habitat. </p><p>Though they haven't recorded an increase in doves across the sites in the four years of working on the project, Outten said they are seeing improvements in how landowners and farmers manage habitat for the birds. </p>
A Turtle Dove Haven<p>The 3,500-acre Knepp Estate in West Sussex is another project taking a different approach and one of the few places where turtle dove numbers are increasing.</p><p>Isabella Tree and her husband Charlie Burrell converted their intensively farmed land into a rewilding project almost 20 years ago. They have let the land return to nature.</p><p>Just one year after they'd finished <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/uks-most-talented-architects-are-not-human/a-35952128" target="_blank">rewilding</a> the southern part of their property, they heard turtle doves for the first time. It's now a breeding hotspot for the birds with an estimated 19 pairs. Knepp is also home to <a href="https://www.rewildingbritain.org.uk/rewilding/rewilding-projects/knepp-estate" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2% of the UK's population</a> of nightingales. </p><p>Tree is critical of supplementary feeding schemes that, in her view, are short term. She questions the chances of turtle doves getting to feed on scattered seeds before other mammals eat them first.</p>
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By Jessica Corbett
Green groups applauded Sen. Jeff Merkley on Wednesday for introducing a pioneering pair of bills that aim to "protect the long-term health and well-being of the American people and their economy from the catastrophic effects of climate chaos" by preventing banks and international financial institutions from financing fossil fuels.