EPA watchdog to investigate Pruitt meeting with industry group

EPA watchdog to investigate Pruitt meeting with industry group
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The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) inspector general said this week it will investigate Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOvernight Energy: Fewer than half of school districts test for lead | Dems slam proposed changes to Endangered Species Act | FEMA avoids climate change when discussing plan for future storms Greens sue EPA over ‘super-polluting’ truck rule Don’t worry (too much) about Kavanaugh changing the Supreme Court 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 PalloneTop Dems urge Trump officials to reverse suspension of ObamaCare payments FCC passes controversial rule changing how it handles consumer complaints Overnight Health Care: Dem demands details on Trump-Pfizer pricing deal | Why both sides agree nominee could shift high court to right on abortion | DEA gets more powers to limit opioid production 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.