THIS WEEK IN CLIMATE (IN)ACTION: BOOT PRUITT EDITION – April 6, 2018

QUOTES OF THE WEEK:

“Instead of answering for his sweetheart deal on a luxury condo in the home of a top energy lobbyist, Scott Pruitt is once again acting on polluter lobbyists’ behalf by moving forward a rollback his former landlord likely pushed as a lobbyist for the auto industry. This is a blatant example of this administration’s corrupt industry ties having dangerous consequences for our communities.”

— LCV VP of Government Affairs Sara Chieffo’s response to Pruitt’s handout to the auto industry

 

“This whole thing has completely gutted any morale I had left to put up with this place.”

— An anonymous EPA official who is frustrated with Pruitt’s unethical maneuver to give huge raises to his favorite aides

 

LCV IN THE NEWS:

Politico: Pruitt’s troubles raise scrutiny on Wheeler confirmation

New Hampshire Public Radio: Local N.H. Conservation, Climate Groups Launch Renewable Energy Campaign

WAMC: Rep. Stefanik Touts Breaks With GOP In Town Hall Forum

E&E News: Climate caucus Republicans mostly quiet on Pruitt

Chicago Tribune: Pressure builds for probe of EPA chief Scott Pruitt’s travel, $50-a-night condo

Hearst TV: EPA Upends Clean Car Standards

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

LCV’s state affiliates are hard at work protecting the environment and fighting climate change in the states. Here’s what people are reading across the country:

Bay Journal (MD): States lagging badly in planting streamside trees

Huffington Post (CA): The Trump Administration Is Suing California Again

Metro US (NY): NYC politicians, transit advocates react to Cuomo’s 2019 state budget

Michigan Radio (MI): Political Roundup: “Five bad ideas” according to the Michigan League of Conservation Voters

Richmond Times-Dispatch (VA): Cute metaphors don’t fix fossil fuel dangers

AP (VA): Northam Order Calls for Review of Environmental Regulations

WEMU 89.1 (MI): Nestle’s Permit To Increase Groundwater Pumping In Michigan Approved

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PRUITT’S FUTURE IN SERIOUS QUESTION. Pressure is mounting for EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, who has found himself in a stunning tangle of multiple corruption scandals. Let’s recap what we’ve learned over the last week alone…if we can remember it all:

SOLD, FOR $50 A DAY: Pruitt received a favorable rent agreement from the wife of a powerful lobbyist, and this past March, the EPA approved a pipeline project for one of that lobbyist’s clients. This is a clear conflict of interest and it should also be noted that the pipeline company, Enbridge, was fined $61 million for the second-largest oil spill in history. Don Fox of former Presidents’ Bush and Obama’s Office of Government Ethics put it lightly: “Entering into this arrangement causes a reasonable person to question the integrity of the E.P.A. decision.” Pruitt, it is clear, is happy to sell out our environment for cheaper rent.

HOW COULD THIS GO WRONG? The Daily Beast discovered that Pruitt’s D.C. residence has hosted at least three fundraisers for GOP congressmen since Pruitt moved in. This is a prime example of the swampy behavior we’ve seen from Pruitt since he’s been in office.

YOU CAN’T DO THAT: Although the steal of a price Pruitt was paying for downtown D.C. feels like it should be a crime, it turns out leasing him a room in the first place actually broke the law. D.C. officials cited the lobbyist couple for leasing a room to Pruitt without the proper license — earning them a hefty fine of $2,034. Paying dirt-cheap rent on an illegally-rented condo on Capitol Hill owned by the wife of a lobbyist with business before the EPA…could it possibly get worse?

SPEAKING OF QUID PRO QUO: Pruitt’s corruption raises red flags about the latest EPA decision: easing the clean car standards. Eliminating this signature Obama-era environmental protection will enable carmakers to build gas guzzling vehicles that dump more pollution into our air and cost consumers more money at the gas pump — this is a dangerous decision for our health and climate, not to mention it is out of step with nearly 9 out of 10 people in this country who want more fuel efficient cars. Once again, it looks like Pruitt has sided with polluters – including his lobbyist landlord, who represented the auto industry – over our communities.

MO’ MONEY, MO’ PROBLEMS: The Atlantic revealed that Pruitt used an obscure provision of the Safe Drinking Water Act to provide tens of thousands of dollars in salary raises to two of his closest advisors — Sarah Greenwalt and Millan Hupp, both of whom moved from Oklahoma to Washington to work for Pruitt at the EPA. These raises occurred two weeks after Pruitt requested the raises under normal procedure, but they were shut down by the White House. Thus, Pruitt resurrected a measure intended to be used to expedite the hiring of scientific experts, according to agency need. Now, it seems like Pruitt used it simply as a loophole to give handouts to the most loyal of his cronies – even going behind his boss’s back to do so.

LIAR LIAR: Despite telling the world that he knew nothing of the raises for two of his closest aides, two EPA officials confirmed that Pruitt “endorsed the idea” of substantial pay increases. This directly contradicts his interview on Fox earlier this week where he denied authorizing such action. Pruitt’s pattern of unethical behavior leaves us inclined to believe the EPA officials over his questionable denial.

WHERE YA OFF TO? A bombshell Washington Post article reported that the EPA actually considered leasing a private plane to accommodate Pruitt’s luxury travel needs. The agreement would have cost roughly $100,000 taxpayer dollars per month. Keep in mind that Pruitt has often used government resources like flights and security personnel for personal travel, including a family trip to Disneyland and a visit to the Rose Bowl.

DON’T MESS WITH THE BOSS: Four high-ranking EPA officials and one Trump political appointee were reassigned, demoted or forced to find new jobs after raising concerns about Pruitt’s management of the EPA. Many of the concerns stemmed from wasteful spending and improper allocation of resources — like new office furniture and Pruitt’s lavish travel accommodations. A sixth, chief of staff, Ryan Jackson, is considering resigning after bringing up similar issues with Pruitt directly.

BIPARTISAN SCRUTINY: Members of both parties who serve on the House Energy and Commerce Committee are widening the scope of their investigation into Pruitt’s affairs — probing his luxurious travel, suspicious rental agreement, and round-the-clock security detail. Rep. Frank Pallone, a Democrat from New Jersey, vocalized what we’ve all been thinking: these actions could constitute an official ethics violation. We feel it’s pretty safe to say that a lot of ethics rules have been broken by the EPA chief — but we’re looking forward to Congress coming to that conclusion in the coming weeks.

BIPARTISAN SKEPTICISM: There have been bipartisan calls — including three Republican members — for Pruitt’s resignation. And the list continues to grow, with Reps. Don Beyer and  David Cicilline leading 64 members in a letter calling for him to go late Friday.

DON’T MISS: Pruitt’s fumbling, bumbling, combative, and downright awful interview with Fox News. Worth the 25 minutes.

HISTORY ON REPEAT: Trump yesterday told reporters that he maintained confidence in Pruitt, despite ethics scandals. However, it’s important to note that Trump has repeated this line time and time again right before he fires someone — as we saw with ShulkinTillerson, ​and Flynn​. Could this mean that Pruitt is soon to be out the door? In private, Trump has expressed frustration with the bad press piling up on Pruitt and is looking into his ethics violations — which indicates that these latest scandals are the final straw.

ABOUT EFFECTIVENESS: With Pruitt’s defenders repeatedly pointing to Pruitt’s “effectiveness” as a reason Trump will keep him around, Emily Atkin at The New Republic took a closer look. “At least ten of Pruitt’s intended regulatory rollbacks, in fact, are on hold due to lawsuits,” she writes, citing the State Energy & Environmental Impact Center. “So far, Pruitt’s biggest achievement is that he appears successful.” But after this week, Pruitt only appears to be the face of this administration’s corruption.

WE WON’T LET THIS CONTINUE! LCV and environmental groups launched www.BootPruitt.com to expel this dangerous and corrupt EPA administrator.

IN NON PRUITT NEWS: Pruitt’s demise dominated the headlines all week — but here are a few others you shouldn’t miss:

Continuing his poor staffing choices, Trump’s pick to oversee wildlife policy has a history of opposing the Endangered Species Act.

On the heels of Pruitt’s terrible announcement on clean cars, take a look at how fuel economy in the U.S. compares to countries around the world.

The latest of public lands attacks: the Trump administration mounted a legal challenge trying to make it easier to steal land in California.

The Center for Investigative Reporting has a new, in-depth look at how National Parks Service officials eliminated mentions of human contribution to climate change from a new report.

Winning headline of the week — Washington Post: Americans Tell Interior to Take a Hike Over Proposed National Park Fee Increase.

EYE ON THE STATES: In both New Jersey and South Carolina, we’re seeing promising movement on clean energy initiatives. In New Jersey, committees in both chambers approved legislation that paves a path for the Garden State to achieve 100 percent clean energy by 2050. Among many provisions, the legislation includes ensuring half the state’s energy comes from clean sources by 2030, a limit on costs of renewables, a community solar program, and an energy efficiency program. Keep your eyes peeled – next week, the full legislature is expected to vote on the bill.

DOWN SOUTH: In South Carolina, clean energy was victorious in a solar showdown between a utility-back bill that would roll back solar advancements and a solar jobs bill that would save 3,000 jobs and grow South Carolina’s clean energy economy. Yesterday, the House passed the solar jobs bill, which will help ensure that residential solar customers receive a fair credit for the energy they generate on their rooftops, will grow solar jobs and will ensure fair prices for solar energy. It’s expected to hit the South Carolina Senate next week.

THIS WEEK AT THE BALLOT BOX: Voters in Arizona, Wisconsin and Alaska cast their ballots for action on climate change and clean energy in local elections on Tuesday, previewing more wins at the local level come November:

STEPS TOWARD SOLAR: In an arcane election for the board governing Arizona’s the second-largest utility, two clean energy champs ousted incumbents thanks to Chispa AZ PAC’s get out the vote efforts. The new board members will help reverse the utility’s backwards policy on renewable energy – which currently only contributes to 5 percent of its energy portfolio – and reform its elitist election system that shuts out community representation in energy decisions.

BADGER STATE BOSS: In Wisconsin, LCV supporters helped Rebecca Dallet raise more than $20,000 via GiveGreen, helping her win a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court – crucial for upcoming redistricting fights and for the environment, as the court is expected to take up decisions on mining and other major environmental issues in the near future.

ACTION IN ANCHORAGE: Climate champion and Anchorage, Alaska Mayor Ethan Berkowitz won reelection in an all-mail race. Our state partner, the Alaska Center, helped Berkowitz overcome an opponent with direct times to oil and gas.

A PODCAST FOR THE WEEKEND: Don’t miss LCV President Gene Karpinski talk all things Pruitt with Steve Curwood on PRI’s Living on Earth. Listen here.

 

COMING UP:

NEXT WEEK — The Senate is expected to vote on former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler’s nomination to serve as Pruitt’s number two at the EPA

APRIL 11 — Secretary Zinke will appear before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies to discuss his agency’s budget

APRIL 26 – Pruitt to testify in front of House Energy and Commerce Committee … if he’s still around

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