The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Pruitt Threatens to Cut Funds for DOJ Environmental Litigation, Spends $58K on Taxpayer-Funded Flights
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.
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.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Malaysia Sends Plastic Waste Back to 13 Wealthy Countries, Says It Won’t Be 'the Rubbish Dump of the World'
The Southeast Asian country Malaysia has sent 150 shipping containers packed with plastic waste back to 13 wealthy countries, putting the world on notice that it will not be the world's garbage dump, as CNN reported. The countries receiving their trash back include the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Canada.
Madagascar has embarked on its most ambitious tree-planting drive yet, aiming to plant 60 million trees in the coming months. The island nation celebrates 60 years of independence this year, and the start of the planting campaign on Jan. 19 marked one year since the inauguration of President Andry Rajoelina, who has promised to restore Madagascar's lost forests.