BY: TANNER KENNEY
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has long been the subject of criticism from environmentalists, watchdogs, journalists, judicial pundits, and more for his role in rolling-back a bevy of environmental protections and regulations that were intended to benefit the American people as opposed to ‘big business.’ With every day that passes, it appears as though he is attempting to prove these accusations true while wearing a badge of pride in doing so.
But of all the troubling and amoral decisions made by Pruitt and his team, the most egregious of them all was, is, and will continue to be his insistence upon the deregulation of the energy industry in the name of private profits over public health. His ties to the industry are no secret and may have been one of the deciding factors in his nomination for the position, and he has been undeniably successful in transforming the agency.
However, it also appears as though Pruitt’s time at the helm of the agency may soon come to a close as a third Republican legislator has called for his resignation as a multitude of ethical questions have been raised regarding various contracts, costly air travel, housing for Pruitt and members of his family – payment for which he fell behind on, unnecessary trips, and, now, petty requests; and when denied his druthers, even pettier responses.
“Pruitt’s lavish travel, which totals more than $182,000, according to the Environmental Integrity Project, has included first class domestic and international flights for him and his security detail, private charters and a military jet.” – CBS News
But this is nothing new for a man who has frequently shirked experts and shunned climate science for the sake of President Trump’s approval as well as the rapidly-disappearing religious base that got them into office, in the first place. Moreover, the agency’s transparency has been appalling. At best, under Pruitt’s guidance, highlighted by his outlandish expenditures on a biometric locking system and soundproof booth for his office, despite such facilities already existing in the same building.
“In 2011, Pruitt and his wife, Margaret, bought a property in Tulsa, Oklahoma, just days before a court ruled that it had been fraudulently transferred by a Las Vegas developer who was on the hook for a $3.6 million loan default. Pruitt, who was then Oklahoma attorney general, apparently flipped the property for a $70,000 profit four months later, selling it to a dummy corporation set up by a major campaign contributor, Kevin Hern.” – Salon
In addition to the heads of other agencies, Pruitt has been criticized for unethical hires including the appointment of aides and even circumventing the White House to give raises to those through a little-known clause in the Safe Drinking Water Act which “allows the EPA administrator to hire up to 30 people into the agency, without White House or congressional approval.” (The Atlantic) Additionally, on April 5th, 2018, it was reported that Administrator Pruitt demoted “[a] number of high ranking” EPA officials earlier in the year.
Overall, the rapid departure of the vast majority of President Trump’s initial administration – including numerous appointments that did not require congressional approval – highlights two contradictory aspects of Pruitt’s time in office. While his departure is highly probable, it also begs the question as to whether or not it will be his decision as the mutual admiration between Trump and Pruitt has been evident for some time. Pruitt’s obedience to his boss has given him an extended tenure as EPA Administrator, but that should change for the good of the American people, citizens around the world and the planet, itself.
Tanner Kenney is an energy and media professional with a background in journalism and received his M.S. in Global Affairs, Environment & Energy Policy from NYU’s Center for Global Affairs. Recently, Tanner has focused on the advocacy of sustainable development through renewable energy technologies, transportation efficiency, and inclusive public policy.
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