EPA Inspector General Launches Investigation Into Trump Administration Official

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The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) administrator, Scott Pruitt, is in deep trouble. It all started with a meeting with a group from the coal mining industry. The real reason Donald Trump withdrew from the Paris Climate Agreement was surrounded in intrigue.

The bad news came out when the Democrats who sit on the House Energy and Commerce Committee released Inspector General Arthur Elkins Jr.’s letter. It confirmed that his office would:

‘Review the single meeting between EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and the National Mining Association on
April 10.’

Just one day after Pruitt met with a coal mining group, the National Mining Association’s executive committee, to discuss the Paris Climate Agreement last April, its board of directors voted to press Trump to withdraw from the accord.

Owner of Murray Energy, Robert Murray, has been one of Trump’s biggest supporters. The owner claims he has the largest coal company in America, and he has been aggressively opposed to the accord. Former Trump senior adviser, Stephen Bannon, also opposed it.

The president frequently told people who attended his campaign rallies that he would bring back the coal miners’ jobs. Those jobs have declined due to automation and a shift to cleaner energy.

Last June, Trump announced that he planned to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord. The U.S. is the only country on Earth that has not signed onto this vital agreement.

The liberal American Democracy Legal Fund lodged a complaint against EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, claiming he violated U.S. lobbying laws prior to Donald Trump leaving the Paris Climate Accord. The organization requested the Government Accountability Office (GAO) look into whether Pruitt used his position as head of the EPA to influence this country’s participation in the Paris agreement.

The Democracy Legal Fund claimed that Pruitt did so illegally. It cited the federal law that forbids federal agencies or officials from lobbying on any issue that is currently being considered before Congress.

The president of the Union for Concerned Scientists, Ken Kimmel wrote:

‘During his nomination hearing last January, Administrator Pruitt knew he would be questioned about his commitment to EPA’s mission and his repeated lawsuits against EPA when he served as Oklahoma’s attorney general.

‘He claimed that he would make EPA a more effective agency by de-emphasizing “electives” such as climate change. He promised to steer the agency “back to basics” by focusing on core responsibilities such as enforcing clean air and water laws and cleaning hazardous waste sites.’

Yet, Pruitt broke those promises made under oath. He cut the agency’s budget by 31 percent, laid off 25 percent of its employees, and killed off 56 programs. He cut the grants the EPA gives to states for enforcement by 20 percent.

Worse, one employee said in EPA under Siege:

‘I think there’s a general consensus among the career people that, at bottom, they’re basically trying to destroy the place.’

Both Democrats and liberal groups agreed that Pruitt violated anti-lobbying law for government officials. They asked the GAO to give a legal opinion on Pruitt. Prior to that, they asked the GAO if it would “develop a comprehensive factual record” for them to use in their analysis.

Elkins wrote in his letter to the representative and ranking Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee, Frank Pallone Jr. of New Jersey:

‘The GAO stated to us that it could and would use the factual record regarding that meeting to conduct its analysis.’

Pruitt spent $58 million chartering private and military planes, instead of cheaper commercial flights, until his activities came to light, according to the New York Magazine. Prior to leading the EPA, he sued it 14 times.

A spokesperson for an Office of the Inspector General confirmed Elkin’s letter, according to The Hill.

Featured Image via Getty Images/Win McNamee.

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