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 PruittWith offshore drilling scheme, Trump's America looks like a banana republic Overnight Energy: California regulators vote to close nuclear plant | Watchdog expands Pruitt travel probe | Washington state seeks exemption from offshore drilling plan Overnight Regulation: Fight erupts over gun export rules | WH meets advocates on prison reform | Officials move to allow Medicaid work requirements | New IRS guidance on taxes 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 PalloneLawmakers say they're close to deal on CHIP funding Five key decisions for the GOP on health care 8.8 million sign up for ObamaCare, nearly matching last year 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.