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: EPA watchdog says agency failed to properly monitor asbestos at schools| Watchdog won’t investigate former Superfund head’s qualifications| Florence causes toxic coal ash spill in North Carolina White House officials discussing potential replacements for FEMA chief: report Trump’s EPA chooses coal over the American people 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 PalloneNew Trump rule would weaken Obama methane pollution standards FCC watchdog clears chairman of 'favoritism' allegations over Sinclair deal GAO report blasts Trump's handling of ObamaCare 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.