EPA's Pruitt faces senators' question on spending, security

EPA's Pruitt faces senators' question on spending, security

Scott Pruitt, the embattled administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, vehemently defended himself while facing tough questions about his spending and alleged ethical transgressions at a Capitol Hill hearing Wednesday. Tom Carper of DE and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, both Democrats - do not sit on the subcommittee that will question Pruitt this week, but have requested the Republican chairman overseeing their committee bring in Pruitt.

"No, I don't recall that", said Pruitt, when asked if he had personally requested the use of lights and sirens.

Udall said Perrotta wrote in the email that Pruitt had encouraged the use of the devices.

"I was not aware that there had been some holding back of the report", Pruitt testified. The email said the administrator "encourages" the use of lights and sirens. According to Udall, the IG is looking into the administrator's luxury travel; trips to Oklahoma for football games; the use of a condo owned by a lobbyist at a discounted rate; the use of clean drinking water programs for political purposes; and payments to a close adviser who didn't show up for work for three months.

Additionally, a US senator blasted Pruitt for flying first-class because of security reasons, saying no one 'knows who you are'.

That detail appears at odds with past claims that the stepped-up security measures came in direct response to death threats. "Forget about your own ego and your first class travel and your special phone booths that just make you a laughingstock and your agency a laughingstock".

Leahy belittled Pruitt's claim that he needed to fly first class because of security concerns. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who chairs the Senate subcommittee, told Pruitt she was concerned that "many of the important policy efforts that you are engaged in are being overshadowed because of a series of issues related to you and your management of the agency".

But Pruitt also told lawmakers that he didn't understand how the October meeting could be interpreted as nefarious, noting that the California site was already under consideration for placement on his personal priority list of Superfund sites.

"You have used your office to enrich yourself at the expense of the American taxpayer and public health and such abuses have led to several investigations", Udall said.

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The emails show EPA, White House and Department of Defense officials scrambled to block the report. He blamed staff and processes for allowing some of incidents to take place.

"I share your concerns about some of these decisions".

For his part, Pruitt took the same approach as he did in a pair of contentious House hearings last month, largely steering clear of addressing the dozen probes he is facing on topics such as the installation of a $43,000 soundproof phone booth in his office, a cut-rate condo rental from a lobbyist past year, and his domestic and global travel expenses.

The agency is also weighing creating a legal drinking water threshold for PFOA and PFOS, he said.

At Wednesday's hearing with the 13-member panel, Democratic senators lambasted his record at the agency.

President Donald Trump supports his agency chief but several members of Congress do not.

Pruitt met with a law firm representing the Orange County Water District that employs Hewitt last October, according to internal emails obtained by Politico earlier this month. "You had to fly first class?" Asked Friday if he still had confidence in Pruitt, Trump told reporters, "I do".

He called the aide "a longtime friend" who used her "personal time" to help him. He added that he did not pay her for this service.

Udall said he was calling for a GAO investigation into the tweet to see whether it violated anti-propaganda laws.

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