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 PruittOil execs boasted of 'unprecedented access' to Trump officials: report Overnight Energy: EPA moves to raise ethanol levels in gasoline | Dems look to counter White House climate council | Zinke cleared of allegations tied to special election EPA pushes forward plan to increase ethanol mix in gasoline 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 PalloneBooker takes early lead in 2020 endorsements Hillicon Valley: EU hits Google with .7 billion antitrust fine | GOP steps up attack over tech bias claims | Dems ask FTC for budget wishlist | Justices punt on Google privacy settlement Dems ask FTC if it needs more money to protect privacy 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.