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EPA’s Scott Pruitt Turned to Oil & Gas Drilling Industry Group for Hiring Advice


Scott Pruitt, the controversial and scandal-plagued head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), continues to make clear where his loyalties lie.

According to a recent BuzzFeed investigation, Pruitt asked the American Petroleum Institute (API) – a leading trade group for the gas and oil drilling industry – to recommend candidates for some of the agency’s top jobs.

ConocoPhillips Forwards Resumes in Response to Pruitt’s “Plea for Candidates”

Following Pruitt’s “plea for candidates,” ConocoPhillips forwarded two resumes to the agency.

“I understand that Administrator Pruitt met with the API executives last week and he made a plea for candidates to fill some of the regional director positions within the agency,” the oil company’s manager of federal government affairs wrote in an email to a top EPA aid on March 27, 2017. “One of our employees has expressed interest. He is polishing up his resume. Where does he need to send it?”

On April 4th, the same ConocoPhillips executive emailed the EPA aid again, offering yet another resume.

Hiring Recommendations Came Days After Pruitt Attended API Dinner

The emails, which were released to the Sierra Club in response to a Freedom of Information Act request and shared with BuzzFeed, were sent less than a week after Pruitt attended the “American Petroleum Institute’s Executive Committee and Board of Director’s Dinner” at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.

The dinner was attended by dozens of energy company CEOs. According to Pruitt’s own daily calendar, the event would address “Environment, regulations and energy policy as well as the administration’s plans on US oil and natural gas development.”

Former EPA Head Calls Pruitt’s Actions “Highly Unusual”

Neither candidate proffered by ConocoPhillips got a job with the EPA. However, word that Pruitt had approached the very industry he regulates for help with hiring was met with surprise by at least one former EPA Secretary.

“It would be highly unusual to go to a specific industry to try to recruit,” said Christine Todd Whitman, who served under President George W. Bush.

Whitman added that, under her tenure, the EPA did not “go out and recruit.” Generally, candidates approached the agency, while hiring recommendations usually came from Congress and the White House.

Others echoed Whitman’s concerns.

“I think it’s troubling the head of the EPA is asking the fossil fuel industry for staff recommendations for chief positions,” Judith Enck, once a regional director with the EPA, told BuzzFeed.

“This is Scott Pruitt trying to outsource the job to protect our air and water to the exact people responsible for polluting them,” Michael Brune, Sierra Club’s executive director, said in an email to BuzzFeed.

Pruitt Weakens, Delays Chemical Disaster Rule in Response to Industry Pressure

Of course, none of this is really surprising to anyone who’s followed Pruitt’s controversial tenure at the EPA.

The former Oklahoma attorney general has been doing the industry’s bidding since he first assumed the position of EPA Secretary.

For example, Pruitt has moved aggressively to eliminate and weaken key parts of the Chemical Disaster Rule, which was proposed to prevent deadly plant and refinery explosions, such as the one that leveled the town of West, Texas in 2013.

The Chemical Disaster Rule would have taken effect in March 2017 were it not for intense industry lobbying that convinced the Trump Administration to put the regulations on hold.

Just last month, Pruitt proposed a new set of regulations that would rescind and further delay vital parts of the Chemical Disaster Rule.

Though his industry allies praised the action, it was met with derision from those concerned with workers’ safety and the environment.

“Today, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt did the bidding of powerful industry lobbyists by rescinding important requirements to prevent and respond to catastrophic chemical incidents at industrial facilities,” the United Steel Workers, a union representing more than 850,000 North American workers, said in a statement blasting the attack on the Chemical Disaster Rule.

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