2 top aides leave EPA amid ethics investigations

WASHINGTON (AP) — The top security official for embattled Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt abruptly left office ahead of his scheduled questioning before a congressional panel, one of two top aides whose departures were announced today amid a series of federal ethics investigations of the agency.

In statements, Pruitt gave no immediate reasons why the two men – security chief Pasquale "Nino" Perrotta and Albert Kelly, a former Oklahoma banker who ran the EPA's Superfund program – were leaving.

Perrotta is due to appear Wednesday for a transcribed interview by staffers of the House Oversight Committee. Committee aides said his resignation was not expected to affect his appearance.

Pruitt's spending on security, and some of EPA's security contracts with Perrotta, are among the topics of more than a dozen federal probes involving the EPA under Pruitt, a former Oklahoma attorney general.

Pruitt said Perrotta was retiring, and praised him for hard work and dedication.

Pruitt thanked Kelly for what he said was his "tremendous impact" in Kelly's year overseeing the nation's Superfund program, charged with handling the cleanup of toxic waste sites.

Pruitt hired Kelly, an Oklahoma banker, at EPA after federal banking regulators banned the man from banking for life. Regulators have not publicly specified the actions that led to the banking ban. Days ago, Rep. Scott Peters, D-Calif., pressed Pruitt for more details about why exactly Kelly had been sanctioned by regulators.

"I think Mr. Kelly, if he's willing to share that with you, he should do that," Pruitt said Thursday.

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