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EPA Watchdog Blasts Former Agency Chief Scott Pruitt Over Spending on Security

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EPA Watchdog Blasts Former Agency Chief Scott Pruitt Over Spending on Security
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI / Getty Images

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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A plume of smoke from wildfires burning in the Angeles National Forest is seen from downtown Los Angeles on Aug. 29, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

California is bracing for rare January wildfires this week amid damaging Santa Ana winds coupled with unusually hot and dry winter weather.

High winds, gusting up to 80- to 90 miles per hour in some parts of the state, are expected to last through Wednesday evening. Nearly the entire state has been in a drought for months, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which, alongside summerlike temperatures, has left vegetation dry and flammable.

Utilities Southern California Edison and PG&E, which serves the central and northern portions of the state, warned it may preemptively shut off power to hundreds of thousands of customers to reduce the risk of electrical fires sparked by trees and branches falling on live power lines. The rare January fire conditions come on the heels of the worst wildfire season ever recorded in California, as climate change exacerbates the factors causing fires to be more frequent and severe.

California is also experiencing the most severe surge of COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with hospitals and ICUs over capacity and a stay-at-home order in place. Wildfire smoke can increase the risk of adverse health effects due to COVID, and evacuations forcing people to crowd into shelters could further spread the virus.

As reported by AccuWeather:

In the atmosphere, air flows from high to low pressure. The setup into Wednesday is like having two giant atmospheric fans working as a team with one pulling and the other pushing the air in the same direction.
Normally, mountains to the north and east of Los Angeles would protect the downtown which sits in a basin. However, with the assistance of the offshore storm, there will be areas of gusty winds even in the L.A. Basin. The winds may get strong enough in parts of the basin to break tree limbs and lead to sporadic power outages and sparks that could ignite fires.
"Typically, Santa Ana winds stay out of downtown Los Angeles and the L.A. Basin, but this time, conditions may set up just right to bring 30- to 40-mph wind gusts even in those typically calm condition areas," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Mike Doll.

For a deeper dive:

AP, LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, Weather Channel, AccuWeather, New York Times, Slideshow: New York Times; Climate Signals Background: Wildfires, 2020 Western wildfire season

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, sign up for daily Hot News, and visit their news site, Nexus Media News.

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