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Pruitt Threatens to Cut Funds for DOJ Environmental Litigation, Spends $58K on Taxpayer-Funded Flights

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Lorie Shaull/Flickr

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt—who made a career out of suing the agency he now heads over clean air, water and climate safeguards—is trying to stop the enforcement of existing pollution-control laws by cutting off major funding for the Department of Justice's Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD), the New York Times reported.


According to the Times:

[ENRD] lawyers handle litigation on behalf of the E.P.A.'s Superfund program seeking to force polluters to pay for cleaning up sites they left contaminated with hazardous waste. The E.P.A. reimburses the Justice Department for that work, paying more than $20 million annually in recent years, or enough for 115 full-time employees, budget documents show.

But Mr. Pruitt has signaled that he wants to end those payments, potentially carving a major hole in the division's budget, in a little-noticed line in the E.P.A.'s budget proposal in the spring.

Notably, Pruitt said that cleaning Superfund sites was a priority. He said in July, "There is nothing more core to the Agency's mission than revitalizing contaminated land."

Since taking the job, Pruitt has made several moves to suspend environmental regulations, including protections against toxic wastewater, oil and gas pollution as well as climate pollution. The conservative Republican has close ties to the fossil fuel industry and infamously denies that carbon dioxide is a "primary contributor" to climate change.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post reported another instance of the EPA boss using taxpayer money for his own interests—he spent $58,219.19 on four military and private flights between February and August.

The most expensive was a $36,069 trip on June 7. Pruitt and several staff members traveled from Andrews Air Force Base to Cincinnati to join President Trump, the Post reported, citing congressional oversight committee records.

"When the administrator travels, he takes commercial flights," EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman told the paper, adding that the administrator is the face of the agency and has an obligation to get around the country.

The EPA inspector general is already investigating the former Oklahoma Attorney General's frequent trips back to his home state amid speculation that Pruitt is really focused on a future run for Oklahoma senator or governor. Records show that the administrator's airfare for these trips cost more than $12,000, with most of that covering travel to and from Oklahoma.

Earlier this week, the Post reported that the EPA spent nearly $25,000 to construct a soundproof communications booth in the administrator's office.

Additionally, Pruitt has enlisted an 18-member security detail, costing the EPA $832,735.40 in the first quarter of 2017, records published by E&E News show.

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