Congress enables Pruitt’s attack on EPA’s good nameSFlb

Words matter.

Take the word “protection.”

Miriam Webster defines it as “something that keeps a person or thing from being harmed.” That’s clear and succinct and it informs any literate adult what the Environmental Protection Agency is supposed to do. It’s supposed to keep the environment safe from harm.

That has been its function for most of the time since it was created in 1971 at the urging of President Richard M. Nixon. Not so today under the administration of Scott Pruitt, President Donald Trump’s incongruous choice to be the 14th head of the EPA.

As attorney general of Oklahoma, Pruitt had a long history of hostility toward the EPA and its mission. He also had a history of accepting large sums of money from the fossil-fuel industry and of currying favor with the industry and its lobbyists.

As administrator of the EPA, Pruitt has continued to act as a protector of fossil fuel and chemical company interests, but the nation has also gotten to see a blatantly self-serving side of the man.

He believes he deserves to be treated better than other federal government employees – including the other 13 men and women who have headed the EPA. He claims a blanket dispensation from travel restrictions that apply to other government employees, flying first class and staying in more expensive hotels than those that are approved for government employees. And he travels a lot, meaning the taxpayers are picking up hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional costs.

He claimed for the first time that the EPA administrator requires 24/7 security protection, based on threats to his safety. This has already cost the taxpayers about $3 million more than was spent on security for any of his predecessors during a similar period.

Challenged to produce evidence of threats against his safety that warranted his flying first class or having an unprecedented level of protection, Pruitt’s office could produce only instances of his having been subject to rude remarks by passers-by when occasionally recognized in airports.

Taxpayers are spending millions to protect his fragile ego while Pruitt is charging ahead with President Trump’s budget plan to cut EPA expenditures on scientists and other staff by nearly a quarter.

Closing the doors

Pruitt is ushering the EPA into a new era of secrecy and an attitude that relies less on established environmental science. Its website has been restructured to remove thousands of historic documents, especially those supporting the concept of climate change. Pruitt is not convinced that man is capable of altering the climate.

Two weeks ago, reporters from CNN, the Associated Press and E&E, an environmental trade publication, were blocked from attending an EPA conference on water contamination. An AP reporter who refused to leave the building was forced out the door by security guards.

Coincidentally those news agencies had recently run unflattering pieces about Pruitt, including how he was revamping the Scientific Advisory Board to reflect his personal unscientific world view.

Pruitt’s need to be pampered goes beyond first-class travel and round-the-clock security.

Recent revelations include his use of government employees as personal assistants. During a May 18 interview with the House Oversight Committee, Pruitt’s director of scheduling, Millan Hupp, said that Pruitt had her spend days scouting apartments for him in the Washington area and even had her research buying a used mattress from the Trump International Hotel in Washington.

The New York Times has reported that Pruitt and his son sat in seats last December at a University of Kentucky basketball game in Lexington that were reserved for donors who contribute a minimum of $1 million to the school. The seats belong to billionaire coal company executive Joseph W. Craft III. An EPA spokesman said Pruitt paid Craft the face value of the tickets – $130 each – in cash.

Meanwhile, Republicans who control Congress are going through the motions of conducting hearings into Pruitt’s more outrageous transgressions, but they show no interest in discussing the larger issue of his dismantling of the EPA.

Pruitt can waste money, break the law, open the EPA to outside influence from the industries it is supposed to police, replace science with ideology, close the public out of what the EPA is doing and even endanger the public and first responders. He can do all that and more as long as he changes the EPA into the EDA – Environmental Deregulation Agency.

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