Quantcast
Insights

Mitchell Resnick

Scott Pruitt Has Betrayed the Mission, the National Interest and the Public Trust

As Americans, we have a right to expect that the people we entrust with public service will work toward good governance, put the national interest first, advance the mission they're given, and do so with integrity.


Scott Pruitt has betrayed that solemn trust on every count. He's shredding public confidence in our government with every moment he remains in office. It's time for him to go.

As administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Pruitt has a single overriding responsibility: to protect the environment and public health. Instead, he's protecting big polluters as he moves to delay or weaken needed safeguards at the direct behest of one industrial lobbyist after another.

As a senior official in the executive branch, he has an obligation to work on behalf of the people. Instead, he's setting the public interest aside, putting special interests first, and making the public pay the price.

And in his role overseeing the work of some 15,000 professional staffers, he has a duty to set an example of good judgment and ethical conduct. Instead, he's become the administration's poster boy for repeated lapses in both.

There's his sweetheart condo deal with the wife of a fossil fuel lobbyist. And his insistence on flying first class when the taxpayers are buying the ticket, citing security concerns that somehow vanish when Pruitt pays the fare for personal flights home to Oklahoma. On Tuesday we learned that an inquiry by the EPA's own Homeland Security office could find no evidence of any security threat that might justify the estimated $3 million in taxpayer money spent so far on Pruitt's security detail.

Small wonder he's become a late-night punchline. There's nothing funny, though, about the damage he's trying to do to the EPA and its capacity to protect the public from the real threats of toxic pollution and industrial ruin.

Pruitt's greatest affront to the country is his single-minded effort to weaken, delay or do away with the EPA standards and rules that defend our air and water, protect us from toxic pesticides and chemicals, and enable us to fight the growing dangers of climate change.

Those commonsense safeguards are grounded in sound science, the public interest, and the rule of law, as Pruitt is finding out in our courts. That hasn't stopped him from trying to gut those protections, and this is more than reason enough to fire him.

The way Pruitt conducts himself in office, though, warrants termination on ethical grounds. On Monday evidence emerged that Pruitt can't be taken at his word, when two EPA staffers told The Atlantic of an email showing that Pruitt personally authorized a $56,765 raise for a favored aide after the White House rejected the increase as inappropriate. Pruitt last week blamed the incident on "my staff," claimed he did not know who was responsible, and told Fox News that "the officials that were involved in that process should not have done what they did."

In response to the contradictory email, EPA chief of staff Ryan Jackson put out a carefully worded statement, saying "Administrator Pruitt had zero knowledge of the amount of the raises, nor the process by which they transpired. These kind of personnel actions are handled by EPA's HR officials, Presidential Personnel Office and me."

The issue here, of course, isn't process. It's integrity. We're being asked to imagine Pruitt was somehow unaware that one of his closest aides was getting a ludicrous raise over White House objections. Even in Washington, that's not how it works.

The email controversy broke just hours after it was reported that the senior ethics official in the U.S. government―appointed by President Trump―had sent a scathing letter to his EPA counterpart, demanding to know whether Pruitt's long trail of ethical controversies had compromised his ability to serve with "impartiality" and whether Pruitt "is using his public office for private gain."

In the letter, David J. Apol, acting director and general counsel of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, cited what he called "extremely concerning reports" that at least five EPA staffers who objected to Pruitt's imperious requests for lavish spending and special privilege were later demoted or reassigned or sought different jobs.

EPA deputy chief of staff Kevin Chmielewski was placed on leave without pay for pushing back on Pruitt's requests for spending on things like a $100,000-a-month fee to share a private jet or $70,000 for office furniture, including a bulletproof desk for the armed security agent stationed at all times within Pruitt's office suite.

Eric Weese was demoted from his position as head of Pruitt's security detail after refusing Pruitt's demand that he turn on emergency lights and a siren on a government-owned SUV to whisk the administrator to the airport and to dinner at his favorite French restaurant.

"If true," wrote the ethics chief, "it is hard to imagine any action that could more effectively undermine an agency's integrity than punishing or marginalizing employees who strive to ensure compliance with the laws and regulations that safeguard that integrity."

For Pruitt, destroying the integrity of the EPA has been job one since day one.

Pruitt came to office with zero credibility as an environmental advocate. Indeed, he built a career taking the EPA to court in an effort to hobble the agency on behalf of oil, gas, and coal companies. Now he's an embarrassment―if not to Trump, then to the entire country.

In his letter, Apol may have put it best. "The success of our Government," he wrote, "depends on maintaining the trust of the people we serve."

Scott Pruitt has betrayed that trust. He cannot earn it back. It's time we bought him one last ticket home to Oklahoma―in coach.

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Health
Lee Johnson and his two sons. Lee Johnson

Man vs. Monsanto: First Trial Over Roundup Cancer Claims Set to Begin

By Carey Gillam

Dewayne "Lee" Johnson has led what many might call an unremarkable life. The 46-year-old father and husband spent several years working as a school groundskeeper and spending free time teaching his two young sons to play football. But this week he takes center stage in a global debate over the safety of one of the world's most widely used pesticides as he takes Monsanto to court on claims that repeated exposure to the company's popular Roundup herbicide left him with terminal cancer.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals

Celebrate National Pollinators Week By Protecting These Endangered Species

As summer enters into full bloom, it's time to celebrate all the birds, bees and bugs that make the fruits and flowers possible. From June 18 to 24, Pollinator Partnership (P2) is celebrating National Pollinator Week, which was designated by the U.S. Senate 11 years ago and has grown into an international event.

Keep reading... Show less
Business
Mike Mozart / CC BY 2.0

The Home Depot Will Be Third Major U.S. Retailer to Ban Deadly Paint Strippers

The world's largest home improvement retailer, The Home Depot, announced Tuesday that it will phase out the use of the toxic chemicals methylene chloride and N-methylpyrrolidone (NMP) in its paint removal products by the end of this year.

The company, which operates more than 2,200 stores in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, is the third major retailer this month to commit to pulling the products from store shelves. Methylene chloride and NMP have been found to pose unacceptable health risks to the public, including cancer, harm to the nervous system and to childhood development, and death.

Keep reading... Show less
Food

These Toxic Chemicals in Food Packaging Are Getting Into Your Meals

By Rachel Smilan-Goldstein

On a busy weeknight, takeout and fast food are easy dinner time solutions. But your family's favorite on-the-go meal may come with a side of toxic fluorinated chemicals.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Politics
An artist's rendering depicted a light rail line on Charlotte Avenue near Sylvan Park. Nashville Public Radio / Nashville Mayor's Office

Kochs Mobilize to Kill Public Transit Plans

The Koch brothers are pouring money into grassroots state efforts to defeat public transit proposals, The New York Times reported.

Keep reading... Show less
Energy
VanessaC (EY) / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The Lake Powell Pipeline Is a Hot, Expensive Mess

By Sam Schipani

With rainfall at record lows, water is an increasingly precious commodity in the deserts of southern Utah. But in the driest reaches of redrock country, one long-waged water war thunders even louder than the rest.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Renewable Energy
Offshore wind turbine near Scotland. U.S. Department of the Interior

Public Health Benefits of Adding Offshore Wind to the Grid

By Jonathan Buonocore

New plans to build two commercial offshore wind farms near the Massachusetts and Rhode Island coasts have sparked a lot of discussion about the vast potential of this previously untapped source of electricity.

But as an environmental health and climate researcher, I'm intrigued by how this gust of offshore wind power may improve public health. Replacing fossil fuels with wind and solar energy, research shows, can reduce risks of asthma, hospitalizations and heart attacks. In turn, that can save lives.

Keep reading... Show less
Politics
The collapsed coal ash impoundment and closed power plant at Dan River Steam Station (Duke Energy), Eden, North Carolina. The impoundment failure caused the 2014 Dan River coal ash spill. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Pruitt Grants Oklahoma Leniency to Dispose of Toxic Coal Ash Without Federal Oversight

On Monday, Oklahoma became the first state to be granted a permit from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to dispose of its own coal ash, The Associated Press reported.

The move displaces the federal government as the body responsible for coal ash disposal in EPA head Scott Pruitt's home state. Coal ash is the residue left over from burning coal for power that often contaminates groundwater. It is a change that industry has lobbied for and environmental groups have opposed.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

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