The media is reporting that Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt has been meeting with “polluters,” including fossil fuel leaders, ranchers, and farmers.
Pruitt is also being accused of dismantling the good works of his predecessors in secrecy, mistreating employees at the agency and even covertly meeting with groups that have faced burdensome regulation under the President Barack Obama administration.
The New York Times reported:
A former Oklahoma attorney general who built his career suing the EPA, and whose LinkedIn profile still describes him as “a leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda,” Mr. Pruitt has made it clear that he sees his mission to be dismantling the agency’s policies — and even portions of the institution itself.
But as he works to roll back regulations, close offices and eliminate staff at the agency charged with protecting the nation’s environment and public health, Mr. Pruitt is taking extraordinary measures to conceal his actions, according to interviews with more than 20 current and former agency employees.
Together with a small group of political appointees, many with backgrounds, like his, in Oklahoma politics, and with advice from industry lobbyists, Mr. Pruitt has taken aim at an agency whose policies have been developed and enforced by thousands of the EPA’s career scientists and policy experts, many of whom work in the same building.
“There’s a feeling of paranoia in the agency — employees feel like there’s been a hostile takeover and the guy in charge is treating them like enemies,” Christopher Sellers, director of the Center for the Study of Inequality and Social Justice at Stony Brook University, said in the Times report. He conducted an interview survey with about 40 EPA employees, titled “The EPA Under Siege.”
But in an interview with Time magazine, Pruitt said he is meeting with “stakeholders” in the private sector that he is responsible for regulating as part of the agency’s mission to protect the environment and the health of Americans.
Pruitt said that the recent criticism of his schedule by the Times was unfounded.
“I don’t spend any time with polluters,” Pruitt said. “I prosecute polluters.”
“What I’m spending time with are stakeholders who care about outcomes,” Pruitt said. “I think it’s a wrong premise.”
“It’s Washington, DC-think to look at folks across the country—from states to citizens to farmers and ranchers, industry in general—and say they are evil or wrong and we’re not going to partner with them,” Pruitt said.
Pruitt also questioned the common conception of what it means to be an environmentalist and said that the term also applies to farmers and ranchers who live off the land.
“Those farmers and ranchers in Iowa or North Dakota, are they less of a conservationist or environmentalist because they’re not part of some association?” Pruitt asked. “I mean they are our first environmentalists.”
“Their greatest asset is their land,” Pruitt said.
Liz Bowman, a spokeswoman for the EPA, denied the accounts employees interviewed said about the secrecy surrounding Pruitt.
“None of this is true,” Bowman said. “It’s all rumors.”
In an e-mailed statement, Bowman said:
It’s very disappointing, yet not surprising, to learn that you would solicit leaks, and collude with union officials to distract from the work we are doing to implement the president’s agenda.
And those who admire the work Pruitt is doing have said he is justified in taking measures to ensure his security because many of the 15,000 employees in the agency are opposed to his policies.
“EPA is legendary for being stocked with leftists,” said Steven J. Milloy, a member of President Donald Trump’s EPA transition team and author of the book Scare Pollution: Why and How to Fix the E.P.A.
“If you work in a hostile environment, you’re not the one that’s paranoid,” Milloy said.
Sen. Thomas R. Carper (D-DE), the top Democrat on the committee overseeing federal government-related operations, has criticized Pruitt for embracing what he described as “a culture of secrecy around everything from his schedule to the way the agency makes scientific determinations,” according to the Times.
But an EPA spokesman pushed back against Carper’s criticisms.
“Administrator Pruitt has responded to 14 of the 27 oversight letters, which often contain numerous in-depth questions and it takes time to provide an extensive and thorough response,” the spokesman said.
The Times report also criticized Pruitt for spending less than one percent of his time with environmental groups.