EPA chief to face fresh questions about spending in senate hearing

Wednesday, 16 May, 2018

Most of the committee's six Democratic members have vehemently opposed Pruitt's efforts to roll back climate and pollution regulations introduced under Democratic former President Barack Obama, and have seized on the controversies around Pruitt's conduct to call for his resignation. Tom Udall of New Mexico, Pruitt replied that it didn't happen.

Pruitt, the former attorney general of Oklahoma, skirted questions about whether he requested round-the-clock security detail his first day on the job, as The Washington Post reported Monday, or if his security detail used emergency lights and sirens during non-emergencies.

Udall also asked Pruitt about a tweet issued by EPA's official account last month mocking Democratic senators for failing to block the confirmation of Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist now working as EPA's No. 2 official.

A House committee, the EPA's inspector general and the GAO all are investigating various allegations against Pruitt or his administration at EPA.

"No, I don't recall that happening", Pruitt said. He then read aloud a threat posted on Twitter past year by a man who said he planned to shoot Pruitt and who was later determined by investigators to be in India.

Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, the subcommittee chairwoman, has told reporters that she was concerned about the allegations surrounding Pruitt, but that it was up to the Trump administration to decide his future.

"Unfortunately, I am concerned that numerous important policy efforts you are engaged in are being overshadowed because of issues related to you and your management of agency", she said. "There are some legitimate questions that need to be answered", she said.

"EPA's Protective Service Detail handles security decisions and this particular decision was made before Administrator Pruitt arrived at EPA", Wilcox said.

The EPA's inside investigative workplace has accomplished investigations into 14 threats directed at Pruitt and his household, three of that are dated earlier than he was sworn in.

At one point, the lawmaker asked Pruitt to provide details on how he had enlisted aide Millan Hupp to help locate local apartment rentals for him last summer.

Perrotta, who has been under scrutiny for the expenditures related to Pruitt's security and travel, retired from the agency late last month.

Senator Chuck Grassley, for example, said on Tuesday he would join lawmakers calling for Pruitt's ouster unless the EPA chief curbs the agency's use of waivers exempting refineries from their obligation to mix ethanol into fuel.

"We are making the tough decisions with respect to environmental protection, while at the same time restoring confidence in the American people that we can engage in regulations and not pick winners and losers, and not engage in coercion with our actions", Pruitt said.

Pruitt says his staff shouldn't have issued the tweet. Marked "For Official Use Only", the internal summary was then improperly made public, Elkins said. "The decision was made by the Office of Criminal Enforcement, Forensics and Training after being informed that Mr. Pruitt requested 24/7 protection once he was confirmed as Administrator".