Quantcast
Popular
Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt. The White House / Flickr

'I Don't Know How You Survive This One': Pruitt's Condo Scandal Could Be His Last

From premium airfare to round-the-clock security, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Scott Pruitt's receipts have raised alarm bells before, but could his latest controversy be the last straw?

During television appearances Sunday, several lawmakers and former Trump officials condemned the industry-friendly EPA administrator's alleged $50-a-night deal at a D.C. townhouse co-owned by an energy lobbyist and his wife.


"I don't know how you survive this one, and if he has to go, it's because he never should have been there in the first place," former Republican New Jersey governor and Trump transition head Chris Christie said on ABC News' This Week.

He "may be on his way out," Democratic Senator Doug Jones of Alabama also said on the same show.

"I think he's in real trouble," Jones added. "People are just frustrated with Cabinet members who seem to want to use taxpayer dollars to fund their own personal lifestyle."

On CBS's Face the Nation, Vermont independent Senator Bernie Sanders said, "You got a guy who's head of the EPA now who is nothing more than a front man for the fossil fuel industry, and that is a very serious problem and the Congress has got to stand up and oppose that line of policy."

Here's a breakdown of Pruitt's condo scandal, as extensively detailed by the Sierra Club:

  • Scott Pruitt worked directly with a lobbyist for the fossil fuel industry and automakers to arrange a sweetheart deal on a townhouse co-owned by the lobbyist's wife in a high-priced D.C. neighborhood.
  • The lobbyist—Steven Hart—is the head of the D.C. lobbying firm Williams and Jensen, which specifically lobbies the EPA on Clean Air Act policies, according to ABC. Hart represents Cheniere Energy, the company that owned the only operating Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) export plant in the U.S. at the time of Scott Pruitt's taxpayer-funded trip to Morocco where he advocated for LNG exports.
  • Hart's firm also represents the American Automotive Policy Council, which includes automakers such as Ford, who lobbied Pruitt's forthcoming decision to roll back clean car standards.
  • Pruitt reportedly paid for just one room in the otherwise unoccupied townhouse, and declined to tell ethics officials his adult daughter stayed in another room he was not paying for.
  • While living in the home, Hart continued to have dinner parties and functions, raising questions about whether political fundraisers were held in the house while Pruitt was there. Hart and his firm have donated more than $600,000 to political candidates this year.

"This is not a simple conflict of interest—this is corruption, plan and simple," Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said. "Pruitt got a sweetheart deal from a fossil fuel lobbyist and then pushed the agenda of that lobbyist at the EPA and on taxpayer-funded international trips—and that's just the latest scandal."

Brune continued, "The fossil fuel lobbyists Pruitt is taking favors and marching orders from are telling him to throw out the safeguards that keep our air and water safe from their pollution, and our kids are at risk as a result. The only way for this non-stop deluge of scandals and negative headlines to stop is for Pruitt to be fired immediately."

Congressmen Ted W. Lieu (D-Los Angeles County) had a similar opinion, tweeting directly at President Trump: "Republicans who don't believe in climate change and want to dismantle environmental protections are a dime a dozen. You don't need Scott Pruitt, who spent taxpayer dollars on first-class travel, violated ethics laws and is deeply paranoid. You should fire him."

Pruitt has not commented on the reports. EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox defended the arrangement.

"As EPA career ethics officials stated in a memo, Administrator Pruitt's housing arrangement for both himself and family was not a gift and the lease was consistent with federal ethics regulations," he told Reuters.

The memo, from EPA ethics official Kevin Minoli, said such arrangements were not considered "gifts" if a federal official pays market value for them.

"Under the terms of the lease, if the space was utilized for one 30-day month, then the rental cost would be $1,500, which is a reasonable market price," the memo said.

However, Reuters reported that local real estate websites show that the average market price for a similar property in the area is at least three times as much.

Walter Shaub, the former Office of Government ethics director who resigned in July after clashes with the Trump administration, called the memo "total baloney."

He tweeted, "You cannot get a whole place to yourself in that prime location for $1,500 a month, nor will you find anyone willing to hold the place open for you all month and charge you only for the nights you use it."

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Climate
Pexels

The Climate Has Always Changed. Why Is This Time So Much Worse?

By Nexus Media, with Katrin Meissner and Alan C. Mix

A recently released study brought sobering news about the future effects of climate change, predicting they could be twice as bad as current models have projected under a "business-as-usual" scenario—and then some. Even if the world hits its 2 degree Celsius target, the paper—which appeared in the journal Nature Geoscience—warned that sea levels could rise six meters or more, large areas of the polar ice caps could collapse, the Sahara Desert could become green, and tropical forest borders could produce fire-dominated savanna.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
ZenShui / Laurence Mouton / Getty Images

7 Smokable Plants You Can Grow That Aren’t Marijuana

By Brian Barth

Here's a non-trend that you'd think would be more hip: tobacco-free herbal smoking blends.

Keep reading... Show less
Adventure
"Drowned World," 2018. Michael Wang

Culture Clash: Nature and Civilization Face Off in the Art of Michael Wang

By Patrick Rogers

The rooftop garden of the Swiss Institute Contemporary Art gallery in New York looks much like you'd expect of a newly renovated former bank building in lower Manhattan. Rows of simple aluminum planters line the small rectangular space, sprouting leafy greenery that frames views of the busy streets below.

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
A train at Metro-North Railroad's Croton-Harmon station, in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy on Oct. 30, 2012. Metropolitan Transportation Authority of the State of New York / CC BY 2.0

The Big Apple Loses to Big Oil as Judge Dismisses Climate Liability Suit

A federal judge ruled on Thursday in favor of a motion by five big oil companies to dismiss a lawsuit brought against them by New York City, which demanded they pay the costs of adapting the city's infrastructure to climate change, The New York Times reported.

The ruling comes nearly a month after a federal judge in San Francisco dismissed a similar case brought by the cities of Oakland and San Francisco.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
GMO
Brian Smith and his cousin Hughes, both fifth generation soybean farmers in Mississippi County, Arkansas, stand in soybean fields their family tend to that show signs of having been affected by dicamba use in August, 2017. Getty Images

New Dicamba Drift Estimate: 1.1 Million Acres Damaged Already in 2018

A University of Missouri report released Thursday estimates that drift damage from the pesticide dicamba has occurred across 1.1 million acres of agricultural crops, trees and other plants so far this year.

This comes less than a year after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and many states introduced additional restrictions meant to prevent off-target damage from the pesticide. Last year dicamba drift wreaked havoc on a reported 3.6 million acres of soybean crops not genetically engineered to resist the notoriously drift-prone pesticide.

Keep reading... Show less
Energy
Andreas Gücklhorn

Most Popular Energy Source? Everyone Loves Solar

By John Rogers

A recent survey shows yet again that solar panels (and wind turbines) have a level of bipartisan popularity that would be the envy of any politician. That means we'll have something safe to talk about at the next barbecue after all.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Climate
Moon with orange-colored troposphere band, the lowest and most dense portion of the earth's atmosphere. NASA

‘Powerful Evidence’ of Global Warming’s Effect on Seasons Found in Troposphere

By Daisy Dunne

Scientists studying the troposphere—the lowest level of the atmosphere—have found "powerful evidence" that climate change is altering seasonal temperatures.

A study published in Science finds that climate change has caused an increase in the difference between summer and winter temperatures across North America and Eurasia over the past four decades.

Keep reading... Show less
Health
Susan Hedman, administrator of EPA's Region 5 during the Flint water crisis, testifies before congress. Mark Wilson / Getty Images

EPA Watchdog Finds Agency Failed in Flint Water Crisis

A report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) internal watchdog organization published Thursday argued that the EPA needed to step up its monitoring of state drinking water in the aftermath of the Flint, Michigan water crisis, CBS reported.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!