THIS WEEK IN CLIMATE (IN)ACTION: BOOT PRUITT EDITION (VOL. 2) – April 13, 2018

QUOTES OF THE WEEK:

“It’s no wonder Ryan has now joined 29 other members of his party who would rather retire than defend their toxic records at the polls. We have a real shot at electing a new House of Representatives that will fight the Trump administration’s extreme anti-environmental agenda, and we’ll be working nonstop to make sure voters support candidates who will protect our clean air, clean water and public lands.”

–LCV’s Pete Maysmith on the flood of Republican retirements, which opens the door for us to take a pro-environment majority in Congress

“It has become increasingly clear that as the head of the EPA, Scott Pruitt is willing to spend big on himself, but not on protecting our environment. He should have never been confirmed to this post in the first place. Now he needs to step aside.”

— Sen. Cory Booker takes to Twitter to criticize Pruitt’s corrupt activities and call on him to resign

“Future generations will see [Pruitt] as a man guilty of a major historical crime, along with his enablers in Congress and their puppet masters in the fossil-fuel industry.”

— Scathing criticism in a New York Times op ed calling out the damage done by Pruitt’s climate denial

 

LCV IN THE NEWS:

Washington Post: Senate confirms a former coal lobbyist as Scott Pruitt’s second-in-command at EPA

The Daily Beast: New EPA Chief-in-Waiting Andrew Wheeler Is a Lapdog for Big Coal

Huffington Post: White House Abruptly Orders EPA To Loosen Clean Air Rules In Polluter Giveaway

Tampa Bay Times: An environmental group is out with a new anti-Rick Scott campaign and it is…interesting

Cox Media: FLORIDA VOTERS GETTING ‘RICK ROLLED’ BY GROUP OPPOSED TO RICK SCOTT

Huffington Post: Rick Scott’s Early Gift From Trump Team May Create More Problems Than It’s Worth

E&E: Inside Kevin McCarthy’s energy record

ThinkProgress: Top coal lobbyist could quickly become EPA chief, thanks to Pruitt’s scandals

Inside Climate News: Coal Lobbyist Becomes No. 2 Official at EPA, Just Behind Pruitt

 

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:

E&E News (IL): Ill. is 30th state to partner with LCV

Montana Standard (MT): Guest column – Greg Gianforte’s public lands values are out of touch with what Montanans want

Las Vegas Now (NV): Scorecard shows how lawmakers voted on clean energy

Solar Industry Magazine (NJ): Solar Groups Applaud N.J. Legislature Passage Of Clean Energy Bills

The State (SC): If we use solar, why should utilities get to charge us for electricity we don’t use?

Durango Herald (CO): Colorado Senate Democrats take a stand on the Great Sand Dunes

 


 

PRUITT’S STILL UNDER PRESSURE. The disgraced EPA chief is still fighting for his job amid mounting criticism for multiple scandals and bipartisan calls for his resignation. Pruitt is the definition of everything wrong with Washington in the Trump era — swampy, self-interested, and downright corrupt. And while the Senate this week voted to confirm coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler to be Pruitt’s second in command, things continue to look bleak for Polluting Pruitt.

TO CATCH YOU UP: Pruitt rented a room in a D.C. townhouse for $50 per night, a very favorable rent granted by his very generous landlords — a lobbyist couple, one of whom represents an energy client whose controversial project was recently approved by Pruitt’s EPA. Oh yeah, and don’t forget about the investigations into improper allocation of agency resources (also known as taxpayer dollars), which he redirected toward luxurious travel, personal security, and raises for his closest aides.

NOW ONTO THIS WEEK’S SCANDALS . . .

SECURITY SAGA: Buckle up — this story has been a doozy this week . . .

  • FIRST WE LEARN that the EPA spent millions on Pruitt’s security detail, arguing that there were legitimate concerns about the EPA chief’s safety. That $3 million allowed Pruitt to sit at the front of airplanes, access suave airport lounges, and take numerous personal trips on the taxpayer dime.
  • THEN A MEMO from the security detail revealed that there were no credible threats to Pruitt — proving that, like we all expected, this security excuse is just a hoax. Another hole in Pruitt’s argument: he was just fine flying coach when he had to foot the bill.
  • AND HOURS LATER Politico reports that the staffer who green-lighted that memo was dismissed by the EPA, as senior-level staff were unhappy with the political consequences. Check out this quote from an EPA source capturing the current state of affairs: “They’re trying to find out where these leaks are coming from … They’re in full panic mode right now.”

PAY FOR PLAY?: Last year alone, Pruitt met with nearly forty organizations that donated directly to his past political campaigns and committees — raising a ton of eyebrows about potential pay for play within the EPA. Most of these organizations are either energy industry bigwigs or conservative think tanks, which makes sense given Pruitt’s history slashing environmental regulations.

LIAR, LIAR: Shady Scott is up to his usual tricks! Trying to deflect heat from giving his two closest aides a raise through a less-than-ethical means, Pruitt pleaded ignorance and convinced his Chief of Staff to take the fall for him. But internal emails within the organization reveal that Pruitt himself personally approved the raises, contradicting the thin story Pruitt tried to sell us earlier this week. It’s just lie after lie with the embattled EPA Chief — which is why he needs to go!

PRUITT’S STRONGMAN: It’s rather unusual for a cabinet official to have a full-fledged security apparatus — but that’s what Pruitt had his chief of security construct for him. Pasquale Perrotta also takes on the role as top enforcer and attack dog, confronting those who have raised concerns with Pruitt’s selfish spending.

THE EVIDENCE IS PILING UP: After meeting with former EPA Deputy Chief of Staff Kevin Chmielewski – who was ousted for raising concerns about Pruitt’s unethical behavior – five lawmakers wrote a lengthy letter outlining Pruitt’s pattern of spending abuse. From the letter, it looks like Pruitt blew off standard security protocols and approved government lodging to spend time in luxury hotels and bring along his personal security detail — all at taxpayer expense.

UH OH: The Acting Director of the Office of Government Ethics has also gotten wind of these abuses. He, too, wrote a strongly-worded letter to the EPA this week suggesting that Pruitt may be in violation of ethical standards with his shady activities — which could spur the White House to finally fire Pruitt.

BUT WHAT ABOUT HIS EMAILS?: Why in the world would someone need four different professional email addresses? Just ask Scott Pruitt — who has used four agency email accounts while in office, making it difficult for FOIA requesters to get full transparency of the administrator’s activities. Upon learning about all of these email addresses, lawmakers have opened another branch of their investigation to see if Pruitt has been withholding any shady information.

IMMORTALIZE ME: And to top it all off, Pruitt is so proud of the corrupt and bungled way in which he’s run the EPA, that he wants to change the EPA keepsakes to include more of HIM, and less of the EPA. Well, since he already gutted the agency’s mission, why not? Next he’ll be renaming the EPA entirely: Ego-boosting Pruitt Authority.

BIPARTISAN SCRUTINY: Here’s how some notables feel about Scott Pruitt lately:

  • Susan Collins: “This daily drop of accusations of excessive spending and ethical violations serve to further distract the agency from accomplishing its very important mission. I think Congress needs to do some oversight.”
  • John Kennedy: “I don’t mean to denigrate Mr. Pruitt, but doggone it, he represents the president of the United States, and it is hurting his boss and it needs to stop.”
  • Lindsay Graham: “The bottom line: This doesn’t look good.”
  • Nancy Pelosi: Pruitt’s “tenure has been a part of the Trump administration’s culture of corruption, cronyism and incompetence. Pruitt must resign.”
  • Al Gore: “I will tell you that I would be very surprised if 90 percent of the American people looking at that situation did not think that there was the appearance of outright corruption there […] Donald Trump ought to fire him.”
  • Washington Post Editorial Board: “An ideologue who has arrogantly abused his position, Mr. Pruitt does not deserve a promotion. He deserves to be fired.”

BUT BUT BUT — EYE ON THE PRIZE: While things are looking bleak for Pruitt, let’s not forget that the EPA Chief and his cronies are still working each and every day to make us less safe and less healthy. Check out three of his latest moves to dismantle our environmental protections:

  • Pruitt circulated a memo declaring himself the final authority on decisions made under the Clean Water Act, which aims to limit water pollution
  • Pruitt also revised fuel emissions standards, one of the biggest contributors to the greenhouse effect that’s driving global warming
  • Pruitt’s new target is the National Ambient Air Quality Standards, a clean air protection he’s attempting to gut via executive order

Let’s not get distracted by the scandal — we need to push back on the damage Pruitt and the EPA are doing to our country every single day. And today we took that fight to Oklahoma, launching ads on Instagram showcasing Pruitt’s inability to explain his ethics troubles.

OUTSIDE PRUITT WORLD:

WHAT WE’RE UP TO: Remember how annoying it was to get “Rick Rolled” back in 2007? Florida voters do, too — except they’ve been reliving that frustration everyday for eight years under the environmentally-antagonistic Governor Rick Scott. Now that Scott wants to run for Senate, we revived the classic meme on Twitter (@RickRollRickSct) to get the word out about his abysmal environmental record. Give us a follow and show us some love!

WHERE’D THE EXPERTS GO?!: No Sunday shows — the most influential political talk shows of the week — featured climate scientists or experts in 2017, a concerning sign given the repeated attacks on climate and the environment. Sunday shows devoted just 260 minutes to climate change discussion last year, 75 percent of which was filled with scrutiny of Trump’s concerning relationship with the environment.

BEHIND CLOSED DOORS: The auto industry fought hard to convince Pruitt to slash fuel emission standards — all at the expense of our families, communities, and planet. Employing trade associations, lobbyists, and a lot of cash, car companies pushed hard to reverse the regulations, deciding that saving a bit on their costs was worth the price we’ll all have to pay once we heat the globe past the point of no return.

SECRETARY OF DENIAL: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee questioned the Koch brothers’ nominee for Secretary of State at a hearing this week, days after we learned that the notorious climate denier had hid his business ties with a Chinese oil company. Mike Pompeo would be yet another fossil fuel defender blocking our efforts to fight climate change, and he has no business being Secretary of State.

ZINKE BROKE THE LAW?: When Zinke reassigned dozens of career Department of Interior officials last year, he may have broken federal laws protecting against discrimination. Officials were allegedly reassigned because of their race or political ideology – a bad move that hurts our lands and communities.

KIDS THESE DAYS: Youth-led organizations are leading the charge on climate change all around the world. Because the younger generations — and their children down the road — will be most affected by climate change, we’re seeing a surge in environmental activism as children pick up the mantle where earlier generations fell short.

GARDEN STATE GREEN: The New Jersey League of Conservation Voters celebrated a huge win this week, as lawmakers committed to a monumental shift toward clean energy. As the New York Times notes, “The central piece of legislation, Assembly Bill 3723, sets the renewable energy goal and anchors much of the growth in wind and solar energy, aiming to hit 35 percent renewables by 2025 and eventually 50 percent by 2030. That goal would pull New Jersey in line with some of the leading states on the issue, like New York and California.”

OUR TAKE: NJLCV Executive Director Ed Potosnak links this win to voters showing their support for clean energy:  “Last fall voters overwhelmingly supported leaders who said they would stand up for New Jersey’s environment; today we saw real clean energy leadership. The Solar Clean Energy Bill is a down payment on Governor Murphy’s commitment to 100% clean energy by 2050 and helps create thousands of good local jobs in the renewable economy. We are extremely pleased that the NJ Legislature passed this clean energy legislation in both houses today and are now eager to see Governor Phil Murphy sign this landmark bill into law to propel New Jersey back to the list of the greenest states in America.”

THROWBACK: Murphy has already taken many of the steps he proposed to make New Jersey a clean energy leader when he announced his campaign last year.

ON A GLOOMY NOTE: The New York Times published a depressing opinion piece about the monumental impact of Pruitt’s climate change denial. Because he calls into question generations of valid and accepted science just to provide cover for the fossil fuel industry, the piece argues that Pruitt’s damage will have long-lasting implications:

THE MUST-READ LINE: “This is a civilization-threatening lie, a lie that will kill people and destroy small nations, if not some large ones. Future generations will see him as a man guilty of a major historical crime, along with his enablers in Congress and their puppet masters in the fossil-fuel industry.”

WE DON’T HAVE TIME FOR THIS: The Washington Post Editorial Board argued that we can still reverse the worst of global warming if we get to work right now. By 2020, we must begin a decline of our greenhouse gas emissions; otherwise, it may be too late. Every country — the United States most of all — must commit to this goal. We’re here to make sure that happens.

COMING UP:

APRIL 14 – LCV’s Climate Action volunteers will be out in force at this weekend’s March for Science. Say hi if you’re in Las Vegas, Raleigh, or Portland, Maine.

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

SEPTEMBER 30 – Expiration of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, America’s best conservation program.

 

Paid for by the League of Conservation Voters, www.lcv.org, and not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.

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