Washington, D.C. July 5, 2018 – Eric Schaeffer, Executive Director of the Environmental Integrity Project and former Director of Civil Enforcement at EPA, issued the following statement about the resignation of Scott Pruitt from his job as Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency:
“Good riddance – we’d be happy to pay for his first class flight back to Oklahoma,” said Schaeffer. “Scott Pruitt was the worst possible man to run EPA – an anti-regulatory jihadist who worked essentially as an agent for his home state’s oil and gas industry to dismantle EPA from within. But even in that, he was an ethical bumbler – renting a townhouse from a lobbyist, travelling first class with an expensive posse, and giving his political appointees grotesque raises on the taxpayer’s dime. With his departure, we have a real climate change at EPA.”
The Environmental Integrity Project, a 16-year-old nonpartisan, nonprofit watchdog organization, was the first group to start an investigation of Pruitt’s expensive travel back to his home in Oklahoma and elsewhere, which triggered a series of reports in the news media, then an audit from the EPA Inspector General’s Office and an investigation by members of Congress.
Starting on July 24, 2017, EIP started releasing scores of EPA public records about Pruitt’s travel that the organization obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests to the EPA. EIP had to file lawsuits against EPA to obtain the records when the agency officials refused to comply with the information requests. The records showed that Pruitt spent nearly half of his days during his first three months in office on travel that included stops in his home state of Oklahoma. Pruitt spent 48 out of 92 days in March, April and May of his first travelling during at least part of the day, and 43 of those travel days were spent in Oklahoma or heading to or from Pruitt’s home.
That July release of EPA records by EIP sparked hundreds of news stories about Pruitt’s expensive travel over the next month –including in The New York Times, Reuters, The Hill, Fox Business, Think Progress, ABC NEWS, Greenwire, the Associated Press.
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On April 12, 2018, five members of of Congress sent a letter to Pruitt and President Trump that described testimony to congressional investigators of Pruitt’s former deputy chief of staff, Kevin Chmielewski, a former Trump campaign aide. Chmielewski said that Pruitt was guilty of “wasteful spending of taxpayer funds” and “disregard for the ethical and legal requirements of your position,” according to the letter.
One of the items highlighted in the letter is the Oklahoma travel issue that the Environmental Integrity Project revealed in July. According to Chmielewski’s testimony, “You (Pruitt) directed your staff to find reasons for you to travel to Oklahoma, so that you could be in your home state for long weekends at taxpayers’ expense.” Mr. Chmielewski described the official meetings in Oklahoma as being “pretextural, such as scheduling an official meeting with an old friend.”
Over the last year, EIP has obtained several EPA public records about Pruitt’s travel and security through litigation to force the agency to honor the Freedom of Information Act. EIP released the records to reporters and the public as we received them, and posted them on our website.