Scott Pruitt is as dirty as his favorite energy sources. Donald Trump’s handpicked EPA director (allegedly) rented a condo from the wife of an energy-industry lobbyist — at a severely discounted rate — then met with said lobbyist to discuss regulatory policy. Pruitt also (allegedly) asked his underlings to rent him a private plane; invent official meetings for him to attend in Oklahoma on long weekends so that he could fly back home at the taxpayer’s expense; act as his “personal real-estate representative”; book him hotel rooms that were both more expensive and less secure than those recommended by the U.S. embassy; and install a $43,000 phone booth in his office
When some EPA staffers objected to the director’s lavish and, in many instances, illegal requests, he penalized them professionally.
But all that wasn’t enough to satiate Pruitt’s thirst for corruption: The man also (allegedly) demanded that his security personnel “use lights and sirens” to transport him at illegally high speeds through residential neighborhoods; orchestrated large salary increases for his favorite aides; and spent millions on a 20-member full-time security detail (more than thrice the size of his predecessor’s part-time contingent).
Nearly all of these alleged misdeeds have been public knowledge for weeks. But, for whatever reason, congressional Republicans only began expressing serious concern about Pruitt’s conduct within the last 24 hours. On Monday, senators Jim Inhofe, Shelley Moore Capito, and John Boozman all called for a Senate hearing on Pruitt’s controversies. On Tuesday, Lisa Murkowski and third-ranking Senate Republican John Thune joined that chorus.
“Obviously, Scott Pruitt has got some serious questions to answer,” Thune told Bloomberg Tuesday. The GOP leader went on to say that while Republicans “like, on a policy level, many of the things that Administrator Pruitt is doing,” they understand that Pruitt’s spending and travel is “hard to explain” away.
Nevertheless, Pruitt persisted in trying to prove his value to conservatives on the “policy level” Tuesday. Flanked by Congressman Lamar Smith and Senator Mike Rounds, Pruitt unveiled a new rule that would restrict the kinds of scientific evidence that EPA officials are allowed to consider when writing environmental regulations. As Inside Climate News explains:
Scott Pruitt’s proposal would only allow the EPA to use studies where the underlying data is made public…The EPA has long relied on well-established population and disease surveys that aggregate data on large populations where patient identifications are kept confidential. The epidemiological studies have allowed regulators to understand how pollutants in the air and water impact humans and provide a scientific justification for regulations involving air and water pollution. Pruitt’s new rule would strike at the core of those regulations. The studies have stood up to peer review, and researchers are typically granted access to redacted data or sign agreements to maintain confidentiality.
… “This is a policy that will most likely be giving special treatment to industry and exclude critical public health data,” said Yogin Kothari, a senior Washington representative with the Union of Concerned Scientists. “It will prevent the EPA from using the entire suite of the best available data out there when it makes decisions using science.”
This move may succeed in degrading environmental protections in the United States, but it seems likely to fail in saving Pruitt’s hide. There are a lot of Republicans in this country with the will and wherewithal to help the fossil-fuel industry sacrifice humanity’s long-term survival on the altar of short-term profitability. Surely, a few of them are capable of doing so while keeping their private-phone-booth expenses under $20,000 per annum.