Wheeler faces questions over Pruitt spending

Wheeler faces questions over Pruitt spending
© Aaron Schwartz

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew WheelerAndrew WheelerOvernight Energy & Environment — American Clean Power — Supreme Court to review power plant rule case EPA to consider tighter air quality standards for smog Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Emissions heading toward pre-pandemic levels MORE was questioned Wednesday on his decision to not seek reimbursement from his predecessor Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittUnderstanding the barriers between scientists, the public and the truth Overnight Energy & Environment — Biden makes return to pre-Trump national monument boundaries official Trump-era EPA board member sues over firing MORE for nearly $124,000 in expenses an internal watchdog deemed “excessive.” 

Wheeler said he did not know whether the EPA had the authority to recover the money from Pruitt during a House Appropriations Committee hearing in response to questions from Rep. Mike QuigleyMichael (Mike) Bruce QuigleyProgressives cheer, moderates groan as Biden visit caps chaotic week  House Democrats urge Pelosi to prioritize aid for gyms House Intel Democrats express doubts about completing Afghan evacuation by deadline MORE (D-Ill.). 

“They didn’t specify what authority we would have to recoup that money,” Wheeler said of the watchdog report. 

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A 2018 inspector general report found that Pruitt and his staff spent $123,942 on "excessive” first class travel in 2017 and recommended that the EPA demand reimbursement from Pruitt for his share of the expenses. 

Wheeler also claimed on Wednesday that the report had a “number of errors” and argued that the expense figure should be halved because Pruitt’s security detail was required to travel with him. 

He also testified on a number of other issues before the House panel. 

Regarding rulemaking for corporate average fuel economy standards, he said that career officials were weighing in, but that it would be “inappropriate” to send every comment to the White House since “sometimes comments from different staff contradict each other.”

Wheeler also defended President TrumpDonald TrumpHillicon Valley — State Dept. employees targets of spyware Ohio Republican Party meeting ends abruptly over anti-DeWine protesters Jan. 6 panel faces new test as first witness pleads the Fifth MORE's proposed cut of more than a quarter of the agency's funding in his fiscal 2021 budget request. 

"How do you justify the president's cuts to programs to ensure that we have clean and safe drinking water?" asked Rep. Brenda LawrenceBrenda Lulenar LawrenceBiden, top officials spread out to promote infrastructure package Gosar faces increasing odds of censure on House floor CBC's pivotal role on infrastructure underscores caucus's growing stature MORE (D-Mich.). 

"I don't think it will affect us," Wheeler told her of the proposed decrease, citing a $2 billion request for certain funds that help communities with water infrastructure as well as the agency's update to the Lead and Copper rule. 

The proposed changes to the Lead and Copper rule would establish a 10 parts per billion “trigger” level at which cities would be required to reevaluate their water treatment processes and possibly add corrosion-control chemicals to city water.