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 PruittOvernight Energy: EPA to make formal decision on regulating drinking water contaminant | Utility to close coal plant despite Trump plea | Greens say climate is high on 2020 voters’ minds EPA to announce PFAS chemical regulation plans by end of year Court tosses challenge to EPA's exclusion of certain scientists from advisory boards MORE sought to establish a new agency office in his hometown.

Reps. Eddie Bernice JohnsonEddie Bernice JohnsonOvernight Energy: Zinke joins Trump-tied lobbying firm | Senators highlight threat from invasive species | Top Republican calls for Green New Deal vote in House Congress can stop the war on science Black Caucus sees power grow with new Democratic majority MORE (D-Texas), Donald Beyer (D-Va.) and Suzanne BonamiciSuzanne Marie BonamiciOvernight Energy: Ocasio-Cortez rolls out Green New Deal measure | Pelosi taps members for climate panel | AOC left out | Court reviews order for EPA to ban pesticide Ocasio-Cortez: ‘I truly do not’ believe Pelosi snubbed me on climate change panel Pelosi names Dems to new climate panel — but not AOC 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.

ADVERTISEMENT

Pruitt’s chief of staff, Ryan Jackson, who at the time was working as an aide for Sen. Jim InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeAllies wary of Shanahan's assurances with looming presence of Trump On The Money: Trump to sign border deal, declare emergency to build wall | Senate passes funding bill, House to follow | Dems promise challenge to emergency declaration Trump to sign border deal, declare national emergency 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 TrumpRosenstein expected to leave DOJ next month: reports Allies wary of Shanahan's assurances with looming presence of Trump States file lawsuit seeking to block Trump's national emergency declaration MORE's agenda.

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