Senate hearing focuses on EPA Pruitt's spending

Pruitt asked for 24/7 security before starting at EPA watchdog says

Greg Nash

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt said on Wednesday that he now has a legal fund in place to help him fight off a growing list of allegations against him related to his spending and reported ethical missteps in office.

That detail appears at odds with past claims that the stepped-up security measures came in direct response to death threats.

EPA Inspector General Arthur Elkins says Pruitt himself initiated the 24-hour-a day protection.

Grassley's criticism is significant given his position as a high-profile Republican senator, but the issue of the EPA waivers has not gotten as much attention compared to the ethics watchdogs, federal auditors and congressional committees who are already conducting almost a dozen inquiries into Pruitt's actions at the agency.

Perrotta, who has been under scrutiny for the expenditures related to Pruitt's security and travel, retired from the agency late last month.

Pruitt's chief of staff, Ryan Jackson, defended the agency's handling of the issue to Politico, saying the "EPA is eager to participate in and, contribute to a coordinated approach so each federal stakeholder is fully informed on what the other stakeholders' concerns, roles, and expertise can contribute and to ensure that the federal government is responding in a uniform way to our local, state, and Congressional constituents and partners". It's three times the size of his predecessor's part-time security contingent. "Nobody even knows who you are".

"Unfortunately, I am concerned that numerous important policy efforts you are engaged in are being overshadowed", she said.

The federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry is preparing to propose safe levels for fluorinated chemicals in drinking water almost six times more stringent than the Environmental Protection Agency's recommendation.

The White House referred questions about the issue to the Department of Health and Human Services, Politico said, which confirmed that the study has no scheduled release date.

Udall, describing Pruitt's management of the agency as "disastrous", again called on Pruitt to resign.

Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) also asked Pruitt directly if he personally asked for 24/7 security.

"We've investigated that with the gentleman in question", Pruitt said. The seemingly unending stream of negative reports about Pruitt's behavior drew the ire of some GOP senators and even staff at the White House. A Government Accountability Office probe recently concluded that the EPA had violated the law by spending $43,000 on a soundproof phone booth for Pruitt's office without notifying lawmakers first. "Those policies were followed, to the best of my knowledge, by the agents who serve me". Udall said Perrotta wrote in the email that Pruitt had encouraged the use of the devices.

"We are making the tough decisions with respect to environmental protection, while at the same time restoring confidence in the American people that we can engage in regulations and not pick winners and losers, and not engage in coercion with our actions", Pruitt said.

Pruitt was also criticized for a tweet on April 13 by the EPA's official account that cheered Senate approval of former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler as deputy administrator of the EPA and stated that "the Democrats couldn't block the confirmation".

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