EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is developing a legal defense fund in an effort to respond to a flurry of ethics investigations, he told a Senate Appropriations subcommittee on Wednesday.
Pruitt’s verification affirms reporting that the fund has been created and opens up another set of questions about funding and oversight. In a back-and-forth with Maryland Democrat Chris Van Hollen, Pruitt said he wouldn’t be recruiting donors to the fund and will leave that to outside forces.
“I don’t accept donations; I don’t solicit donations,” Pruitt said. “That’s done by attorneys and others.”
Pruitt and Van Hollen also discussed the disclosure of donations, which Pruitt pledged to publish. The EPA chief also said he would “absolutely” commit that the fund would not accept donations from entities with business before the EPA and abide by guidance offered by the White House Office of Government Ethics as to whether or not the fund would accept anonymous donations.
At the outset of the hearing, Pruitt received a bipartisan rebuke from subcommittee leaders Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Tom Udall, D-N.M. Murkowski said she was concerned Pruitt’s ethical concerns were overshadowing his work as EPA administrator.
“Instead of being asked about the work that you are doing on (the Waters of the U.S. rule), or the Clean Power Plan, or the Superfund program, I’m being asked – really, constantly asked – to comment on security, on housing, and on travel,” Murkowski said, rattling off a few of the issues that have cast a shadow over Pruitt in recent months.
Udall, who has called for Pruitt to resign, said it was “hard to know where to begin” with his opinions on the administrator. Speaking to reporters after the hearing, Udall mentioned that he felt Pruitt had outright lied to the subcommittee. The administrator said he did not recall directing his security detail to use lights and sirens in order to expedite travel throughout Washington, something Udall says was confirmed to have happened, according to an email from an EPA security official.
“As you saw today, this guy is a pretty slippery character,” Udall said of Pruitt. “You ask a yes-or-no question, a simple question, and you can’t get an answer out of him.”
Pruitt also offered an updated timeline for the agency’s plans to repeal and replace the Waters of the U.S. rule. Asked about the subject by Murkowski, Pruitt said he hopes to have a new WOTUS definition published by the end of the month, a repeal of the current definition finalized by the third quarter of this year, and a new definition by the end of the year.
The EPA’s governance of biofuels and the Renewable Fuel Standard was not discussed at the hearing.
For more news, go to www.Agri-Pulse.com