Pruitt: EPA staff was given authority to approve raises for staffers

Under intense questioning on Thursday, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOvernight Energy: EPA halts surprise inspections of power, chemical plants | Regulators decline to ban pesticide linked to brain damage | NY awards country's largest offshore wind energy contracts EPA allows continued use of pesticide linked with brain damage Overnight Energy: Trump officials gut DC staff for public lands agency to move West | Democrats slam EPA over scientific boards | Deepwater Horizon most litigated environmental issue of decade MORE did not deny that he knew about controversial raises given to two of his top aides despite the White House previously rejecting the proposed pay increases.

“I was not aware of the amount, nor was I aware of the bypassing or the [White House Office of Presidential Personnel] process not being respected,” Pruitt told Rep. Paul TonkoPaul David TonkoHere are the 95 Democrats who voted to support impeachment Overnight Energy: EPA expands use of pesticide it considers 'highly toxic' to bees | House passes defense bill with measure targeting 'forever chemicals' | Five things to watch as Barry barrels through the Gulf House passes bill to crack down on toxic 'forever chemicals' MORE (D-N.Y.) during a House committee hearing.

The EPA gave big raises to Millan Hupp and Sarah Greenwalt, two longtime aides of Pruitt’s who came to the EPA with him from Oklahoma. The agency used a special authority to give the raises after the White House rejected the request.

Documents released by the EPA’s Office of Inspector General showed Pruitt's chief of staff Ryan Jackson signed off on the raises, noting “for Scott Pruitt.”

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"That decision was made by my staff. ... There were delegations given giving him that authority,” Pruitt said, but did not respond when asked whether he had given Jackson the authority. Jackson denied that Pruitt knew about the decision.

Pruitt also said Thursday that he wasn’t aware of the amounts of the raises, but did not deny that he knew about the raises at all.

"I'm concerned that you have no idea what's going on in your name at your agency," Tonko said when Pruitt refused to confirm that he knew about the raises at the time.

Pruitt had previously denied to Fox News’s Ed Henry that he knew of the raises, and said he reversed them as soon as he learned.