EPA watchdog to investigate Pruitt meeting with industry group

EPA watchdog to investigate Pruitt meeting with industry group
© Getty Images

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) inspector general said this week it will investigate Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOvernight Regulation: Groups sue over decision to end pay-data rule | EU proposes tax on tech companies | Sessions issues memo on death penalty for drug cases | Pruitt spent 5K on first class flights Overnight Energy: EPA says Pruitt's security detail flies first class | Lackluster offshore drilling sales | Oil companies snag leases near Bears Ears monument EPA: Pruitt's security detail flies first class MORE’s April meeting with a coal mining industry group.

Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee released a letter Wednesday from Inspector General Arthur Elkins Jr. that confirmed the office “will review the single meeting between EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and the National Mining Association in April 2017.”

An Office of the Inspector General spokesperson confirmed the letter to The Hill on Wednesday.

Pruitt met with the mining group in April and reportedly urged association members to tell President Trump to pull the United States out of the Paris climate deal.

Critics of the meeting, including Democrats and liberal groups, say a request like that from a Cabinet member violates anti-lobbying laws for government officials. They want the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to provide a legal opinion on that question, and they asked the inspector general to first “develop a comprehensive factual record" for use in such an analysis.

“The GAO stated to us that it could and would use the factual record regarding that meeting to conduct its analysis,” Elkins wrote in his letter to Rep. Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneOvernight Tech: What we learned from Zuckerberg's media blitz | Opening arguments in AT&T-Time Warner trial | Trump plans new tariffs on China Overnight Cybersecurity: House Intel votes to release Russia report | House lawmakers demand Zuckerberg testify | Senators unveil updated election cyber bill House panel calls for Zuckerberg to testify MORE (N.J.), the ranking Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee.

An EPA spokeswoman said the probe "is merely an announcement that the [inspector general] will begin work on a fact-based report."

Trump, in June, announced plans to withdraw from the Paris climate accord, which is signed by every other nation on Earth.

—Updated at 5:43 p.m.