Lobbyist tried to schedule Pruitt trip to Qatar

Lobbyist tried to schedule Pruitt trip to Qatar
© Greg Nash

A lobbyist involved in organizing Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittIs Big Oil feeling the heat? Overnight Energy: EPA delays board's review of 'secret science' rules | Keystone pipeline spill affecting more land than thought | Dems seek probe into Forest Service grants tied to Alaska logging EPA delays advisers' review of 'secret science' rules MORE’s trip to Morocco in December also tried to organize a trip to Qatar in the fall, according to internal agency emails.

Richard Smotkin, a lobbyist who secured a contract to represent the Moroccan government after organizing Pruitt's trip to Morocco last year, was also a key figure in trying to plan a trip for Pruitt to the Middle East between November 10 and 13.

In a July 21, 2017, correspondence with Pruitt’s scheduler Millan Hupp, Smotkin says Pruitt will soon be receiving an invite from the Qatar Government to attend a conference in Qatar in conjunction with the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA).

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“Was talking to the administrator re a conference in Qatar Nov 10-13. He seemed very interested,” Smotkin wrote.

“I go every year. Very interesting group of leaders from around the world. Qatar government with UCLA will be sending the invite.”

Hupp thanked him and gave him the proper address to send the invite.

The internal emails were first obtained by the Sierra Club this month after filing a Freedom on Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the EPA.

Smotkin later helped coordinate Pruitt’s trip to Morocco, where he spent part of his time promoting U.S. energy exports. The lobbyist was additionally involved in helping plan Pruitt’s scheduled trip to Australia in August that was cancelled at the last minute due to Hurricane Harvey.

While in Australia, Pruitt’s schedule included a visit to a mine using a chartered plane estimated to cost $10,000. That portion of the trip was partially coordinated by Ray Shepherd, a top lobbyist for Peabody Energy — the world's largest private coal mining company.

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Pruitt’s trip to Qatar never materialized.

EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox said the emails simply showed an invitation from Smotkin, not a confirmed trip.

“This is not news, as EPA receives numerous invitations for various events and Administrator Pruitt never went to Qatar," Wilcox said.

Pruitt has faced criticism for his role meeting with leaders of the fossil fuel industry. Qatar is a major source of oil and gas production globally.

Additionally, Pruitt has been questioned on his spending of taxpayer dollars, including first-class travel, spending nearly $3.5 million on round-the-clock security throughout his first year, and on ordering a $45,000 soundproof booth built in his personal office.