Tuesday, 22 May, 2018

Scott Pruitt Just Testified Before Congress. It Didn't Go Well

Former EPA Administrator Anne Gorsuch Burford after a farewell news conference US Senator Grassley blasts EPA chief over US biofuel mandate waivers
Deanna Wagner | 17 May, 2018, 05:23

"The agency should not have done that", Pruitt said, though he declined to apologize for the tweet when Udall asked him to do so.

Scott Pruitt, the embattled administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, vehemently defended himself while facing tough questions about his spending and alleged ethical transgressions at a Capitol Hill hearing Wednesday.

Pruitt also revealed under questioning that he has set up a legal defense fund.

Udall said he had asked the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office to investigate the EPA's use of social media to send a politically driven Tweet.

The EPA chief, ringed by his aides and security personnel, appeared to ignore them.

"It's hard to know what to begin with today", said Sen. Tom Udall (D-MN) during a budget hearing Wednesday.

"A series of investigations are now underway", Murkowski said to Pruitt, "I would hope that you can fully answer the questions that members that they will pose this morning".

Subcommittee Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) also acknowledged ethics allegations swirling about Pruitt. "Those policies were followed to the best of my knowledge".

Perrotta, who wrote the email about the use of lights and sirens, also drafted a memo previous year saying Pruitt needed to fly in premium class seats because of security threats. The Washington Post first reported last month that Hupp, who now serves as EPA's head of scheduling and advance, contacted a Washington real estate firm and individual homeowners to view properties.

Leahy belittled Pruitt's claim that he needed to fly first class because of security concerns.

He also touted all the regulations his agency has dismantled. He attributed some of the scrutiny to opponents of Trump's agenda for EPA.

"There have been decisions over the past 16 or so months that, as I look back on those decisions, I would not make the same decisions again", Pruitt said.

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Despite the myriad scandals, President Trump has stood by Pruitt's side.

"Do you support [Mueller] completing his investigation?" Udall asked several times.

At Wednesday's hearing with the 13-member panel, Democratic senators lambasted his record at the agency. "Nobody knows who you are". The administrator said he adhered to EPA policy.

"No, I don't recall that", said Pruitt, when asked if he had personally requested the use of lights and sirens.

Udall then produced an email written by then-EPA special agent Pasquale "Nino" Perrotta just days after Pruitt's confirmation with the subject line "Lights and Sirens".

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt was met with ridicule, intense questioning and even a handful of silent protesters on Capitol Hill Wednesday, as lawmakers pressed for answers on multiple ethics investigations now plaguing him.

Udall pointed to reports, including one in the New York Times that said that Pruitt had encouraged the use of lights and sirens, even in non-emergency situations.

"It's my understanding that all activity there was on personal time", Pruitt said, adding that there was no connection to any pay increase and stressing that the aide is a family friend. It stated: "The Senate does its duty: Andrew Wheeler confirmed by senate as deputy administrator of EPA".

"These two investigations into EPA's single tweet encapsulate a running theme: your disregard for ethics and your disregard for taxpayer dollars", Udall said. Several, including Democrats, asked about Superfund sites in their states. He was speaking during a hearing that was meant to focus on the EPA's 2019 budget but that centred on questions about his conduct - including an allegation he had sought to be transported through traffic with flashing lights and sirens.

"They need to have the resources and manpower", Tester said. I want to rectify those going forward.

He suggested the agency would complete a repeal and replacement of the Clean Power Plan this year. The agency is still proceeding in the rulemaking process.

A private fund to help Scott Pruitt pay legal bills amid investigations of his taxpayer-funded travel, unorthodox condo rental and security protection will not accept donations from people with business before the EPA. The study on the chemicals has been termed a "public relations nightmare" in internal emails that lawmakers have called upon the Trump administration to release (E&E Daily, May 15).