News Feature | April 16, 2018

Criticism Dogs EPA Chief

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

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At the helm of the nation’s top environmental agency during the Trump era, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt was tasked with downsizing the agency and cutting regulations that are costly to industry. But in recent weeks, Pruitt has been dogged by speculation that he might land on the chopping block himself.

A new letter alleges that Pruitt spent wastefully, engaged in unethical behavior, and used agency resources inappropriately.

The allegations “are detailed in a scathing six-page missive signed by two senators and three House lawmakers — all Democrats — whose staff members met this week with Kevin Chmielewski, who served as the EPA’s deputy chief of staff until he was removed from his post after raising objections [to EPA spending decisions],” The New York Times reported.

The letter authors cite Chmielewski as their source. The letter requests that Pruitt provide various documents relating to his time in at EPA.

Agency spokesman Jahan Wilcox told CNN: "We will respond to Members of Congress through the proper channel.”

Expensive office decorations are among the allegations in the letter.

"Mr. Chmielewski told our staffs that you spent well beyond the $5,000 allowed by law to decorate your office, including refinishing an antique desk, purchasing an additional standing desk, paying leases for art on loan from the Smithsonian Institution, framing an 8X10 foot United States flag, and building a $43,000 soundproof phone booth,” the letter stated.

Among the allegations in the letter, per CNN:

  • Pruitt declined to use State Department-approved overseas hotels that already had security in place, preferring more expensive hotels with higher security costs.
  • Pruitt requested aides to schedule official business in cities he wanted to visit.
  • Pruitt directed staffers booking his travel on Delta to maximize his personal frequent flyer miles.
  • Pruitt used the agency's scheduling director as a "personal real estate representative."
  • Pruitt wanted staff to find reasons for him to visit his home state of Oklahoma.

Image credit: "EPA," © 2011, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: