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E&C Dems Request Investigation into Pruitt’s Potential Conflicts of Interest

Mar 13, 2017
Press Release

Energy and Commerce Committee Democrats sent a letter to Inspector General Arthur A. Elkins, Jr. of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today requesting an investigation into the policies and procedures designed to safeguard the agency from conflicts of interest.  The request comes after Administrator Scott Pruitt, the top U.S. environmental official, raised additional concerns about potential conflicts of interest by rejecting clear scientific evidence that human activity is a primary contributor to global warming.  As part of the investigation, the letter includes a series of questions on what policies exist and how these policies ensure Administrator Pruitt is recused from agency enforcement actions where potential conflicts of interest exist.

The letter was signed by Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Energy Subcommittee Ranking Member Bobby Rush (D-IL), Environment Subcommittee Ranking Member Paul Tonko (D-NY), Oversight and Investigations Ranking Member Diana DeGette (D-CO), Vice Ranking Member Kathy Castor (D-FL), and Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD). 

“It is critical that EPA and all federal agencies maintain effective conflict of interest policies and ethics requirements in order to ensure government operates in an honest and transparent manner,” the members wrote. “Your investigation will help us better understand the role your office will play in ensuring strict adherence to such rules and guidelines, and how EPA and its new management will address these concerns.”

The letter follows a succession of recent reports by The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal suggesting that Administrator Pruitt closely coordinated with the oil and gas industry during his tenure as Attorney General of Oklahoma.  The reports note that Administrator Pruitt was part of a coalition of mainly Republican state attorney generals who regularly sued the government to undermine environmental rules.  As EPA Administrator, Mr. Pruitt is now charged with safeguarding the environment and implementing these very same rules. 

As part of the investigation request, the Committee Democrats are seeking answers to several questions including:

  • What conflict of interest policies, procedures, and laws exist to ensure Mr. Pruitt and all other current political appointees do not have conflicts of interest with their positions at EPA or with EPA enforcement actions?
  • Do these policies specifically consider whether Mr. Pruitt or other political appointees or their spouses maintain any financial holdings (including but not limited to stock holdings or mutual fund holdings) in the oil and gas industry or electric utility industry?
  • What agency ethics trainings and certifications are Mr. Pruitt and all other current political appointees required to complete in order to join the agency?
  • How do agency conflict of interest policies, procedures, and any relevant laws restrict Mr. Pruitt’s ability to coordinate, fundraise, or otherwise support organizations in which Mr. Pruitt previously served in a leadership capacity?

A copy of the letter is available here.

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