EPA official declines to testify at Superfund hearing

EPA official declines to testify at Superfund hearing
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Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittTrump administration to reconsider allowing controversial Alaska mining project Top EPA official stepping down amid ethics probe New EPA rule could expand number of Trump officials weighing in on FOIA requests MORE's point man for Superfund efforts has declined to testify at a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on the sites' cleanup efforts scheduled for Thursday.

After previously promising to speak at the hearing, Albert Kelly withdrew his name from the witness list last week, citing "an unavoidable scheduling conflict," according to a Democratic spokesperson for the committee.

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Kelly, a former chairman of Oklahoma-based SpiritBank, made headlines recently following news that he had been banned from working in the banking industry. The Intercept also reported that the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) had fined Kelly $125,000 in May 2017 for violating the law.

According to a consent order obtained by the The Intercept through a Freedom of Information Act request, the FDIC believed it had reason to think Kelly "violated a law or regulation, by entering into an agreement pertaining to a loan by the Bank without FDIC approval.”

Two weeks later, Pruitt appointed Kelly his senior adviser and head of the Superfund Task Force.

An EPA spokesperson said that an Office of Land and Emergency Management official will now testify at Thursday's committee hearing. The spokesperson added that Kelly was never formally invited to testify through a letter by the committee and only Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator Barry Breen received a letter.

“The House Committee on Energy and Commerce requested a witness for this hearing and EPA offered Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator Barry Breen from the office of Land and Emergency Management, which oversees the [Superfund] program," the EPA spokesperson told The Hill.

However, the Democratic spokesperson for the committee said EPA's distinction was splitting hairs.

"[The EPA is] falling back on a technicality as an excuse for Mr. Kelly’s unacceptable absence. E&C Democrats were advised by the Majority in December that Mr. Kelly would attend the Superfund hearing," said the spokesperson. "The Majority didn’t send the formal invitations until last week, but Mr. Kelly was scheduled to appear before the formal invites ever went out."

Pruitt's decision to pick Kelly for the position was met with some criticism due to Kelly's lack of a scientific background. Despite his long tenure in finance, Kelly has no prior experience in environmental policy or with Superfund, one of the EPA's more complicated programs.

Updated: 5:46 PM EST.