This is a guest post by ClimateDenierRoundup.
It’s been 15 years since George W. Bush stood under a “Mission Accomplished” banner announcing the end to major combat operations in Iraq and becoming a symbol of an out-of-touch politician eager to end an ongoing issue that continues to cost lives. Apparently, Scott Pruitt wants to take political pointers from this historic gaffe.
Back in March, the EPA ordered a bunch of commemorative challenge coins to celebrate the agency’s response to last year’s hurricanes. EPA brass thought it would be a good idea to do this at a time when the agency was only just beginning to get a handle on the Harvey-flooded Houston Superfund site (that the press office attacked an AP reporter for covering) — and, of course, while places in Puerto Rico continued to suffer without power. Unsurprisingly, and like the news about the tragedy itself, this story has gotten overlooked by all the other Pruitt scandals.
Remember that $50-a-night condo Pruitt rented from a couple of lobbyists? Remember how the lease for the condo originally named J. Steven Hart, whose firm lobbies the EPA, as the landlord, but then his name was scratched out and the name of his non-lobbyist wife was written in by hand?
According to emails FOIA’d by Sierra Club, not only did Hart lobby the EPA, but his wife Vicki and Pruitt also apparently discussed hiring a family friend and recent college graduate at the agency. Hopefully when Pruitt is back on the Hill in August, they’ll ask him why he so clearly misrepresented the nature of the relationship between his landlords and his agency. (Hey, at least the kid wasn’t one of the people Pruitt requested the American Petroleum Institute suggest for an EPA position.)
Now, the emails showing Hart’s requests for favors weren’t sent by Pruitt himself, but by his chief of staff Ryan Jackson. Apparently Pruitt is much too clever to get caught leaving a paper trail: Politico reported last week that that in 10 months of leading the EPA, Pruitt apparently sent only one email on his official account to anyone outside the agency.
Sound suspicious? We agree. Especially since Pruitt reportedly carries his personal iPad around everywhere. Wonder what he could be doing on it, if not official business? Just spending all day playing Farmville? Either he’s doing public business on a private device, shielded from public records laws, or he’s wasting time on his little screen, and therefore wasting taxpayer resources.
But heaven help you if you call into question Pruitt’s exorbitant spending. Despite his claims of caring “so much” about taxpayer funds, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel is now looking into whether or not he fired people for questioning his wasteful spending. (For those keeping count, this inquiry marks the 18th federal investigation into Pruitt.)
Those issues, bad as they may be, pale in comparison to the real damage Pruitt’s doing with his anti-science agenda. And that’s not a value judgement or opinion: it’s a simple fact. Beyond just stacking boards with the industry-friendly experts that political donors suggest, anyone who terminates scientific advisory committees is actively anti-science. Pruitt ended three different committees in May, and notified members of the committees last week. To his credit, at least he’s not wasting the experts’ time by having them hand him scientific analysis he’s just going to order his agency to disregard or supress.
That’s not hypothetical, either. Pruitt’s joint decision with the White House to withhold a report on the dangers of perfluoroalkyls, or PFAS, hasn’t quite generated the “media nightmare” they feared when holding it back, but deliberately keeping military families in the dark about contaminated drinking water certainly hasn’t earned him any friends.
In fact, Pennsylvania Republican representative Brian Fitz called on Pruitt to resign yesterday. That makes Fitz the 196th member of Congress calling for Pruitt’s removal.
Will he stay or will he go? No one knows, except maybe Pruitt and Trump. So flip a coin. May we suggest one of Pruitt’s new challenge coins celebrating the vast and totally not racist difference in how the federal government treated Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico?
Main image: EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt speaking at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. Credit: Gage Skidmore, CC BY–SA 2.0