House Dems question Pruitt over possible plans for Tulsa EPA office

House Dems question Pruitt over possible plans for Tulsa EPA office
© Greg Nash

Three Democrats on the House Science Committee sent on Tuesday sent document requests seeking additional information on whether Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittGovernment watchdog probing EPA’s handling of Hurricane Harvey response Wheeler won’t stop America’s addiction to fossil fuels Overnight Energy: Trump rolls back methane pollution rule | EPA watchdog to step down | China puts tariffs on US gas MORE sought to establish a new agency office in his hometown.

Reps. Eddie Bernice JohnsonEddie Bernice JohnsonWomen poised to take charge in Dem majority DHS declined to let officials testify at hearing on cell surveillance, chairman says EPA says it abandoned plan for office in Pruitt’s hometown MORE (D-Texas), Donald Beyer (D-Va.) and Suzanne BonamiciSuzanne Marie BonamiciLawmakers, media serve up laughs at annual 'Will on the Hill' Congress — when considering women’s health, don’t forget about lung cancer Overnight Energy: Two top Pruitt aides resign at EPA | 17 states sue EPA over car emissions rules | Volkswagen to pay West Virginia .5M over emissions cheating MORE (D-Ore.), the top-ranking Democrats on the committee, wrote to Pruitt and General Services Administration (GSA) Administrator Emily Murphy to gather more information about a possible EPA office in Tulsa, Okla. 

In each letter, the representatives cited media reports about Pruitt’s frequent travel to Tulsa. They went on to note emails that show Pruitt asked staff in January 2017 to examine opening an EPA office near his hometown, even though the regional office is located in Dallas.

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Pruitt’s chief of staff, Ryan Jackson, who at the time was working as an aide for Sen. Jim InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofePentagon releases report on sexual assault risk Trump privately calls Mattis ‘Moderate Dog’: report Cruz gets help from Senate GOP in face of serious challenge from O’Rourke MORE (R-Okla.), emailed EPA staff to identify potential office space in Tulsa.

The three Democratic representatives asked Pruitt and Murphy, respectively, for all EPA emails about a possible Tulsa office, as well as any floor plans, work requests or other memos related to the space.

“Establishing a new EPA office in Tulsa may be personally convenient for you, but it seems ethically questionable, professionally unnecessary, and financially unjustified,” the members wrote.

The inquiries over Pruitt's requests for a space in Tulsa come as the EPA administrator is facing intense scrutiny for a litany of recent ethics controversies.

Democratic lawmakers, and some Republicans, grilled Pruitt during House committee hearings last week over reports he rented a Capitol Hill condo from the wife of an energy lobbyist for $50 a day, over raises given to staff members and over reports he's racked up millions in security and travel expenses.

Pruitt largely explained that those controversies were matters handled by his staff or distractions from his administration's efforts to carry out President TrumpDonald John TrumpHannity urges Trump not to fire 'anybody' after Rosenstein report Ben Carson appears to tie allegation against Kavanaugh to socialist plot Five takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's fiery first debate MORE's agenda.

Trump and some Republicans have defended Pruitt, praising him for cutting regulations at the EPA.