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: Rate of new endangered species listings falls | EPA approves use of 'cyanide bombs' to protect livestock | Watchdog says EPA didn't conduct required analyses EPA didn't conduct required analyses of truck engine rule: internal watchdog Is Big Oil feeling the heat? 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 TonkoDemocrats unveil first bill toward goal of net-zero emissions by 2050 House committee advances sweeping legislation to battle 'forever chemicals' Overnight Energy: Trump officials suspend oil, gas production on Utah plots after lawsuit | California bucks Trump on lightbulb rollback | Scientists join Dems in panning EPA's 'secret science' rule 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.