Las Vegas, Nevada & Denver, Colorado – The League of Conservation Voters, the Nevada Conservation League and Conservation Colorado today announced a $257,000 television and digital ad campaign urging Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) and Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) to hold embattled Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt accountable for numerous scandals plaguing the agency. The ads will run in both English and Spanish.
Pruitt is facing 12 separate federal investigations for actions taken while in office, including abusing taxpayer money on a private phone booth and luxury travel, accepting a sweetheart rent deal from an energy lobbyist tied to a major pipeline spill, and lying about exploiting a law intended to protect clean water to give massive raises to favored staff. These are the first TV ads since the scandals broke holding members of Congress accountable for supporting Pruitt.
“Nearly 200 members of Congress from both parties are calling on Scott Pruitt to resign or demanding investigations into corruption at the EPA. But Dean Heller and Cory Gardner remain silent,” said Sara Chieffo, LCV Vice President for Government Affairs. “Heller and Gardner already stood by Pruitt as he sold out our families’ health to polluters by dismantling dozens of protections for our clean air and water, but their continued silence as Pruitt is engulfed in scandal after scandal shows just how deep their ties to corporate polluters go.”
The ads ask Heller and Gardner to support Senate Resolution 473, which calls for Pruitt to resign. More than 170 members of Congress supported the bicameral resolution when it was introduced last week — including 39 senators, the most to ever support a formal resolution calling for a cabinet member to resign. The resolution focuses on Pruitt’s ethical transgressions, misuse of taxpayer dollars, and his dangerous record of putting polluters ahead of the health of communities.
“Dean Heller is letting industry polluters run the EPA and profit off of threatening Nevadans’ health,” said Andy Maggi, Executive Director of the Nevada Conservation League. “By failing to call for Scott Pruitt’s resignation, Heller is yet again showing that he is bought and paid for by corporate special interests and has no interest in representing Nevadans by standing up to the Trump administration’s toxic agenda.”
“Instead of siding with Coloradans who want the EPA to protect our clean air and water, Scott Pruitt has relentlessly attacked our environment and way of life,” said Maria Handley, acting executive director of Conservation Colorado. “Senator Gardner should immediately call on Pruitt to resign and take the opportunity to stand up for Colorado values.”
LCV is also running Instagram ads in Washington, D.C. and Pruitt’s home state of Oklahoma showing Pruitt’s failure to explain the scandals. More background on the controversy embroiling Pruitt and details on the bipartisan calls for his resignation can be found below. Scripts and research backup can be found here for NCL’s Nevada ad and here for LCV’s Colorado ad.
BACKGROUND ON SCOTT PRUITT’S SCANDALS AT THE EPA:
NBC News Headline: “EPA Chief Scott Pruitt’s $43K Soundproof Phone Booth Violated Federal Spending Law, GAO Says.” On April 16, 2018, NBC News reported under the headline: “EPA chief Scott Pruitt’s $43K soundproof phone booth violated federal spending laws, GAO says.” According to the NBC News story: “A $43,000 soundproof telephone booth that Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt put in his office has caused federal watchdogs to speak up loudly. On Monday, the General Accountability Office sent an eight-page letter to Senate lawmakers reporting that the booth violated federal spending law that caps the amount a presidential appointee can spend on upgrading their office at $5,000 without notifying the appropriations committees in the Senate and House beforehand.” [NBC News, 4/16/2018]
The EPA Violated Federal Law By Approving A $43,000 Soundproof Booth For Pruitt Without Notifying Congressional Appropriations Committees. According to Reuters, “The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency violated the law when it approved a $43,000 soundproof booth for the office of embattled Administrator Scott Pruitt, the Government Accountability Office said on Monday. The GAO said the agency violated the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act, which prohibits an agency from obligating more than $5,000 in federal funds to furnish, redecorate or make improvements in the office of a presidential appointee without first notifying appropriations committees in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.” [Reuters, 4/16/2018]
CNBC Headline: “EPA Chief Scott Pruitt Took First-Class, Military, Charter Flights That Cost Taxpayers More Than $163,000 In First Year Alone: Report.” On March 21st, 2018, CNBC reported under the headline: “EPA chief Scott Pruitt took first-class, military, charter flights that cost taxpayers more than $163,000 in first year alone: Report.” According to the article: “EPA chief Scott Pruitt cost taxpayers more than $163,000 by taking first-class flights, military aircraft and charter flights in his first year in office alone, a new report says. Pruitt’s penchant for taking first-class flights for official travel, instead of flying coach per his own agency’s guidelines, by itself cost more than $105,000, according to Politico, which cites Environmental Protection Agency records. The first-class tally — which includes $16,217 in airfare for a Morocco trip — was not previously public. It came to light because of EPA records turned over to the House Oversight Committee.” [CNBC, 3/21/2018]
GOP Oversight Committee Head Trey Gowdy Criticized Pruitt For His Lavish Travel Expenses And Flawed Justifications For The Excessive Spending. According to New York Post, “The GOP head of the House Oversight Committee said if EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt really wants to avoid the spotlight, he should fly like a ‘monk’ in the back of the plane. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) said he’s ‘concerned’ about the ongoing reports that Pruitt spent too much taxpayer money on first-class travel and his security detail, and has doubts whether Pruitt’s explanation is ‘credible.’ Pruitt said he flies in first class to avoid threatening people in coach, given the ‘very toxic’ political environment. ‘Look, if you sit first class, you’re guaranteed to come in contact with everybody else on the plane,’ a skeptical Gowdy told ‘Fox News Sunday. ‘If you really want to avoid people on the plane, sit in the last seat, not the first seat.’” [New York Post, 4/15/2018]
Enbridge Blamed For Costliest Onshore Oil Spill Ever In Kalamazoo River Pipeline Incident. In July of 2012, NPR reported: “Two years ago this month, an oil pipeline burst in Michigan, contaminating 38 miles of the Kalamazoo River. It didn’t get much national notice because everyone was focused on the massive BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. But the mess created by that Michigan spill was so great that it’s become the costliest onshore spill in history — with a price tag of more than $800 million. On Tuesday, the National Transportation Safety Board blamed the spill on the failure of the pipeline operator, Enbridge Inc., to follow its own safety rules.” [NPR, 7/10/2012]
Enbridge Fined $1 Million For Air Pollution Violations. In October of 2010, the Duluth News Tribune reported: “Enbridge Energy has agreed to pay a $1 million fine to settle state claims under Wisconsin’s air pollution laws over violations at its storage terminal in Superior. The settlement was announced today by Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen. An Enbridge spokeswoman did not immediately return a reporter’s phone call. According to the Department of Justice, Enbridge violated state air requirements at various times since 2001 by operating the terminal without the proper air pollution control operation permit; starting construction without a construction permit; failing to repair seals on storage tanks and to report the repairs in a timely manner; failing to conduct timely inspections of the internal floating roofs on the tanks; maintaining noncompliant stack dimensions, noncompliant tank seals, noncompliant operation of automatic bleeder vents and ungasketed fittings on the tanks; failing to maintain up-to-date design drawings and tank documentation; and underpaying air emission fees.” [Duluth News Tribune, 10/7/2010]
Pruitt Lived In A Townhouse Co-Owned By The Wife Of A Prominent DC Energy Lobbyist J Steven Hart. According to ABC News, “For much of his first year in Washington, President Trump’s EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt occupied prime real estate in a townhouse near the U.S. Capitol that is co-owned by the wife of a top energy lobbyist, property records from 2017 show. Neither the EPA nor the lobbyist, J. Steven Hart, would say how much Pruitt paid to live at the prime Capitol Hill address, though Hart said he believed it to be the market rate. The price tag on Pruitt’s rental arrangement is one key question when determining if it constitutes an improper gift, ethics experts told ABC News. ‘I think it certainly creates a perception problem, especially if Mr. Hart is seeking to influence the agency,’ said Bryson Morgan, the former investigative counsel at the U.S. House of Representatives Office of Congressional Ethics. ‘That’s why there is a gift rule.’ Hart confirmed to ABC News in a brief interview that Pruitt had lived in the flat, which is owned by a limited liability company that links to an address listed to Hart and his wife Vicki Hart, a lobbyist with expertise in the healthcare arena. Steven Hart said Vicki Hart co-owns the condo. He said his wife was not the majority owner, but would not identify her partners. ‘I have no ownership interest,’ he said. ‘Obviously, I know the owners.’ Vicki Hart does no lobbying involving the EPA, her husband said. Her website says she previously worked as a senior health policy advisor for two Senate Majority Leaders before establishing her firm in 2002.” [ABC News, 3/29]
Hart’s Clients Included Natural Gas Exporter Cheniere And Pipeline Operator Enbridge, Inc. On April 6, 2018, Bloomberg reported: “J. Steven Hart’s clients have included the liquefied natural gas exporter Cheniere Energy Inc., pipeline operator Enbridge Inc., meat processor Smithfield Foods Inc. and other companies that have interactions with the EPA, according to disclosures filed with Congress. Because of the way lobbying contacts are reported in required disclosures, it is not clear how much direct interaction — if any — Hart may have had with Congress or federal agencies on clients’ behalf. And Hart did not individually lobby for Enbridge or Smithfield last year, filings show.” [Bloomberg, 4/6/2018]
Late Disclosure Revealed Scott Pruitt Had Met With Lobbyist Tied To Condo Deal In 2017, Contradicting Earlier Statements Denying Such Meeting. On April 21, 2018, the New York Times reported: “Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, met personally last year with J. Steven Hart, the lobbyist whose wife had rented him a $50-a-night Capitol Hill condo, a disclosure that contradicts earlier statements that E.P.A. lobbying by Mr. Hart had not occurred. The meeting was set up on behalf of an executive associated with Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork processor and hog producer. Previously, Mr. Hart and his lobbying firm, Williams & Jensen, had maintained that Mr. Hart never lobbied Mr. Pruitt in 2017, when Mr. Pruitt was living in a condo co-owned by Mr. Hart’s wife, or in the time since then.” [New York Times, 4/21/2018]
NYT Headline: “Pruitt Had a $50-a-Day Condo Linked to Lobbyists. Their Client’s Project Got Approved.” On April 2, 2018, the New York Times reported under the headline: “Pruitt Had a $50-a-Day Condo Linked to Lobbyists. Their Client’s Project Got Approved.” According to the article: “The Environmental Protection Agency signed off last March on a Canadian energy company’s pipeline-expansion plan at the same time that the E.P.A. chief, Scott Pruitt, was renting a condominium linked to the energy company’s powerful Washington lobbying firm. Both the E.P.A. and the lobbying firm dispute that there was any connection between the agency’s action and the condo rental, for which Mr. Pruitt was paying $50 a night. ‘Any attempt to draw that link is patently false,’ Liz Bowman, a spokeswoman for Mr. Pruitt, said in a written statement. Nevertheless, government ethics experts said that the correlation between the E.P.A.’s action and Mr. Pruitt’s lease arrangement — he was renting from the wife of the head of the lobbying firm Williams & Jensen — illustrates why such ties to industry players can generate questions for public officials: Even if no specific favors were asked for or granted, it can create an appearance of a conflict.” [New York Times, 4/2/2018]
To determine whether, according to GAO, Pruitt’s appearance on National Cattlemen’s Beef Association video against the Waters of the U.S. rule “violated the statutory prohibitions on the use of appropriated funds for lobbying and publicity or propaganda purposes.”
To determine whether, according to the IG, in Pruitt’s April 2017 meeting with the National Mining Association, he “violated the Antideficiency Act or certain other appropriation laws, including the anti-lobbying provisions of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017, by urging groups to publicly support the withdrawal of the United States from the Paris climate accord.”
To determine whether, according to the GAO, Pruitt and his staff’s “decisions comply with appropriation law, that is, are appropriated funds available for the purpose of ‘construct[ing] a secure, soundproof communications booth in the offices of Administrator Scott Pruitt.”
According to a March 19th letter by Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM), Administrator Pruitt had refused to cooperate with the GAO regarding the reported $43,000 expenditure.
Just this week, Administrator Pruitt came under fire for this same loophole. He apparently used it to grant supersized pay raises to longtime Oklahoma friends on his EPA staff, despite White House expressly prohibiting the raises.
To determine whether, according to the EPA IG, Pruitt and his staff failed to “prevent fraud, waste and abuse regarding the Administrator’s travel” throughout the first 12 months of his tenure.
The EPA IG is currently reviewing, and considering an investigation, into Scott Pruitt’s sweetheart deal to stay at a lobbyist’s D.C. condo for only $50 a night. The lobbyist, Steve Hart, represented a natural gas company and an auto industry lobbying group that stand to benefit from Pruitt’s actions.
Conservative House Republican Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy has confirmed he is investigating the taxpayer funds Pruitt spent on first-class flights and his sweetheart condo kickback deal.
EPA Inspector General confirmed that he would open a review into whether Samantha Dravis, the Office of Policy’s departing associate administrator, had failed to work for much of the time between last November and January while still receiving compensation as a full-time employee.
EPA Inspector General is investigating Pruitt’s racking up nearly $3 million in salary, overtime, and travel expenses on his 20-member security detail, including whether law enforcement officers actually worked the hours reflected on their timesheets.
The White House revealed today it’s investigating EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s $43,000 privacy booth, even as the agency pushed back on what it called “inaccurate” stories.
White House budget director Mick Mulvaney told the House Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee today he is probing whether the EPA chief violated the 2017 omnibus spending bill, as well as a separate whistleblower complaint on spending at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Pruitt Held Less Than 1% Of His Meetings With Environmental Groups; Met Frequently With Industry Representatives. According to CNN, “Of all of the meetings Pruitt has held in person or on the phone, the majority have been with fossil fuel industry stakeholders. He’s held more than 100 meetings with industry representatives, about 25% of meetings overall, according to a recently public copy of his schedule from April to early September. In comparison, he’s held five meetings with environmentalist or science groups, which is less than 1%.” [CNN, 10/6/17]
Pruitt Denied Environmental Group Request To Join Meeting With EPA. According to the Washington Post, “Despite Pruitt’s claims that his door is open, advocacy groups such as the Sierra Club and Environmental Working Group have not bothered to request meetings. But when Earthjustice asked to attend a May session with state officials about how EPA planned to give them more authority over storing toxic coal ash, the agency refused. It also denied access to a 247-page guidance document it was drafting.” [Washington Post, 12/31/17]
April 5: Pruitt Met With Members Of American Gas Association To Discuss Greenhouse Gas Emission Guidance. According to schedules released by the EPA, Scott Pruitt met with Dave McCurdy of the American Gas Association to discuss White House Council on Environmental Quality final guidance of greenhouse Gas Emissions in NEPA reviews. [Pruitt Schedule, 4/5/17]
April 5: Withdrew Guidance For Federal Agencies To Include Greenhouse Gas Emissions In Environmental Reviews. According to the New York Times, “[EPA] Withdrew guidance for federal agencies to include greenhouse gas emissions in environmental reviews. April 5 Who wanted it changed? Republicans in Congress opposed the guidelines, which advised federal agencies to account for greenhouse gas emissions and potential climate effects in environmental impact reviews. They argued that the government lacked the authority to make such recommendations, and that it would be impossible to plan for the uncertain effects of climate change.” [New York Times, 5/2/17]
March 30: Pruitt Held Meeting With Crop For Life To Discuss WOTUS. According to schedules released by the EPA, Pruitt held a meeting with Crop for Life America to discuss WOTUS. [Pruitt Schedule, 3/30/17]
April 5: Pruitt Met With National Alliance Of Forest Owners on WOTUS. According to EPA Schedules, Pruitt met with the National Alliance of Forest Owners on April 5, 2017 on WOTUS. [Pruitt Schedule, pg 163, 4/5/17]
April 25: Pruitt Met With National Turfgrass Association To Repeal WOTUS. According to EPA Schedules, “To discuss EPA’s Water Sense initiative; Repeal Clean Water Rule (WOTUS) (Expand role of energy savings through turf research, and continue making environmental decisions based on sound peer review science, versus emotional politics).” [Pruitt Schedule, pg 215, 4/25/17]
April 27: Pruitt Met With Members Of The Alliance To Restore Our Waterways. According to schedules released by the EPA, Pruitt met with members of the Alliance to Restore our Waterways. [Pruitt Schedule, pg 233, 4/27/17]
May 18: Pruitt Met With Egg Producers On WOTUS. According to EPA Schedules, “Topic: environmental issues and regulations as they affect agriculture, including WOTUS and other timely topics” [Pruitt Schedules, pg 310, 5/18/17]
June: EPA Moved To Rescind WOTUS. According to a press release, “The Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Army, and Army Corps of Engineers (the agencies) are proposing a rule to rescind the Clean Water Rule and re-codify the regulatory text that existed prior to 2015 defining ‘waters of the United States’ or WOTUS. This action would, when finalized, provide certainty in the interim, pending a second rulemaking in which the agencies will engage in a substantive re-evaluation of the definition of ‘waters of the United States.’ The proposed rule would be implemented in accordance with Supreme Court decisions, agency guidance, and longstanding practice. ‘We are taking significant action to return power to the states and provide regulatory certainty to our nation’s farmers and businesses,’ said Administrator Scott Pruitt. ‘This is the first step in the two-step process to redefine ‘waters of the U.S.’ and we are committed to moving through this re-evaluation to quickly provide regulatory certainty, in a way that is thoughtful, transparent and collaborative with other agencies and the public.’” [EPA, 6/27/17]
May 4: Pruitt Met With Southern Crop Production Association To Discuss “Intersection Of Pesticide Policy And The ESA.” According to schedules released by the EPA, Pruitt met with Southern Crop Production Association to reaffirm “FIFRA’s risk-based approach to regulating pesticides, regulatory reform at the intersection of pesticide policy and the ESA, and reauthorizing the industry’s fee for service program.” [Pruitt Schedule, pg 262, 5/4/17]
May 11: EPA Extended Timeline for Pesticide Applicators Rule. According to an EPA press release, “U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt today announced a 12-month extension for implementation of the revised final Certification and Training of Pesticide Applicators (C&T) rule. EPA received feedback from states and stakeholders that more time and resources are needed to prepare for compliance with the rule. The extended timeline will enable EPA to work with states and provide adequate compliance and training resources. ‘In order to achieve both environmental protection and economic prosperity, we must give the regulated community, which includes farmers and ranchers, adequate time to come into compliance with regulations. Extending the timeline for implementation of this rule will enable EPA to consult with states, assist with education, training and guidance, and prevent unnecessary burdens from overshadowing the rule’s intended benefits,’ said Administrator Pruitt.” [EPA, 5/11/17]
The Hill Headline: “170 Lawmakers Sign Resolution Calling For Pruitt’s Resignation.” On April 18, 2018, The Hill reported under the headline: “170 lawmakers sign resolution calling for Pruitt’s resignation.” According to the article: ‘A group of 131 representatives and 39 senators signed a resolution introduced Wednesday that calls for Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt to resign. The resolution states that the co-signers have ‘no confidence in the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and [are] calling for the immediate resignation of the Administrator.’ Highlighted within the resolution are concerns about Pruitt’s use of taxpayer money, ‘dramatic’ budget cuts and waivers given to employees to work at connected companies while still employed by the EPA.” [The Hill, 4/18/2018]
Huffington Post Headline: “Growing Number Of Republicans Join Calls For Scott Pruitt To Resign.” On April 3, 2018, the Huffington Post reported under the headline: “Growing Number Of Republicans Join Calls For Scott Pruitt To Resign” According to the article: “Reps. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) called for Scott Pruitt’s resignation this week, becoming the first Republicans to demand the embattled Environmental Protection Agency administrator step down amid growing controversy over his spending and ties to lobbyists.” [Huffington Post, 4/3/2018]
Politico Headline: “Pruitt Support In Senate Erodes As Gop Lawmakers Seek Hearings” On April 23, 2018, Politico reported under the headline: “Pruitt support in Senate erodes as GOP lawmakers seek hearings.” According to the article: “Scott Pruitt’s wall of GOP support is developing new cracks, with three key Senate defenders calling for hearings into the embattled EPA administrator’s recent controversies — and Sen. Lisa Murkowski announcing Tuesday that she plans to bring him before her appropriations panel in May. Three other Republicans, including staunch Pruitt ally Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), told POLITICO on Monday that they would also support hearings by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee to look into the former Oklahoma attorney general’s actions. Their words came as Pruitt, who has managed to hold onto President Donald Trump’s public support for now, faces a pair of House hearings Thursday that could be make-or-break for his hopes of remaining in the Cabinet.” [Politico, 4/23/2018]