On the heels of ABC News' revelation that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt lived at the beginning of his tenure in a townhouse connected to a major energy lobbyist, the outlet broke a freakish story on Friday about his security detail breaking down the door of the townhouse, convinced that Pruitt was unconscious inside. It was not considered an ethics issue because Pruitt paid rent. Details of the arrangement initially were reported by ABC News and Bloomberg.
Inside the White House on Friday, staffers expressed frustration by the optics of Pruitt's living arrangements, which come on the heels of the dismissal of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin over ethical missteps. Sheldon Whitehouse obtained information from a confidential, unnamed source that he says indicates Pruitt's extensive EPA-funded security included non-official business, like trips home to Tulsa, Oklahoma, a family vacation to Disneyland and the Rose Bowl game.
"The whole goal of CAFE standards is to make cars more efficient that people are actually buying", Pruitt said. Cheniere also is one of the few exporters of liquefied natural gas in the United States. "We call on the EPA's Inspector General, who is already investigating Mr. Pruitt in three other cases, to immediately launch an investigation into gifts from lobbyists to Administrator Scott Pruitt in the form of deeply discounted living quarters".
Hart's wife, Vicki Hart, is also a lobbyist, focusing on health care issues. According to ABC, Pruitt paid for just one room in an otherwise unoccupied townhouse and experts on government ethics are raising questions as to whether this was a fair market transaction. The EPA has attributed the elevated costs to security precautions undertaken because of the number of threats Pruitt has received - especially compared to his immediate predecessors - since joining the Cabinet in February 2017. Though federal regulations typically require federal officials to fly in coach, the EPA chief has said he needed to sit in premium seats due to security concerns. James Inhofe, the Republican senator expected to retire at the end of his term.
In a statement, Rachel Carmichael, a spokeswoman for Cheniere Energy, noted that the company had not been aware of Pruitt's rental arrangement and had not used Hart's company to lobby the EPA. In addition, Pruitt had at least one meeting with OGE executives and its Williams & Jensen lobbyist and had another meeting with Oklahoma Gas & Electric Co., the company's subsidiary, according to EPA records. Hart's firm also represents the American Automotive Policy Council, which includes automakers such as Ford, who has been lobbying Pruitt to roll back the clean vehicle standards. EPA has also moved to scrap regulations cutting power plant emissions of such toxic substances as mercury, as well as tighter standards on dumps containing coal ash.More news: Suspect Who Killed Hopkinsville Officer Died After Encounter with Police in Clarksville
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Records show Pruitt has had a long relationship with OGE. OGE chairman Peter Delaney contributed $3,500, while Trauschke kicked in $2,500 and Renfrow contributed $1,000.
"Most previous EPA administrators would have thought twice about accepting the offer of rock-bottom rent from the wife of a fossil fuel lobbyist, but this is Scott Pruitt", said EWG President Ken Cook.
"From the first Scott Pruitt has conducted himself terribly, without regard for environmental protection or public safety".
Following the news about Pruitt's apartment deal, Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) called for Pruitt to resign or be fired.