Saturday, May 13, 2017
E.P.A. Chief Recuses Himself From Suits Opposing Obama-Era Rules (NY Times)
What a joke of an EPA Administrator. SCOTT PRUITT is not unlike an oleaginous energumen on steroids. Is this what TRUMP voters wanted?
WASHINGTON — Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, has removed himself from some of the most contentious cases facing it, including challenges to the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan and a controversial rule related to the Clean Water Act.
Mr. Pruitt’s decision to recuse himself, announced in a memorandum dated May 4, involves legal cases he had been a part of during his prior tenure as Oklahoma’s attorney general. In that role, Mr. Pruitt had been one of the most active state officials in bringing lawsuits against the agency he now leads, challenging federal environmental rules. His recusal had been demanded by Democratic lawmakers.
The memo was obtained by E&E News, a site that focuses on environmental and energy reporting.
During his confirmation hearing in January, Mr. Pruitt came under pressure from Democratic senators, who urged him to recuse himself from any cases he had filed against the agency while serving as the attorney general. “What the American people are expecting here is that the E.P.A. doesn’t turn into every polluters’ ally,” Senator Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts told him then. “The only way to do that is for you to recuse yourself from every case you brought.”
During the hearing, Mr. Pruitt said he would not commit to removing himself from all the cases he had brought, though some might be subject to a one-year period of recusal.
In his memorandum describing the decision, Mr. Pruitt said that, after conferring with the ethics office of the agency’s general counsel, he understood he was required to take a “one-year cooling off period” on issues concerning his former employers and clients. That included the state of Oklahoma and the Rule of Law Defense Fund, a policy group that allowed companies benefiting from legal actions taken by Mr. Pruitt and other Republican state attorneys general to make anonymous political contributions.
Mr. Pruitt also wrote that he would not participate in any cases during his term as administrator in which Oklahoma is a “party, petitioner or intervenor,” including a number of challenges involving the coal company Murray Energy and those involving Volkswagen diesel engines, to “demonstrate my profound commitment to carrying out my ethical responsibilities.”
Doing so went beyond recusals required by federal standards, he wrote, but “I am taking this action to avoid even the appearance of impropriety” under obligations of federal ethics or professional responsibility. So far, he said, he had not participated in the cases “officially at all.” He wrote: “This recusal statement addresses all of my ethics obligations.”
In a statement, J. P. Freire, a spokesman for the E.P.A., said the “memo demonstrates Administrator Pruitt is following the rules. By taking these steps, we’re keeping the focus on E.P.A.’s mission to protect human health and the environment.”
One of the Democratic senators who had called for recusal, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, said Mr. Pruitt’s action did not go far enough.
“By recusing himself from the polluting industries’ legal crusades he led at his former post, Scott Pruitt is doing the bare minimum,” Mr. Whitehouse said through a spokesman. “He is still going to be making pivotal decisions on cases he sought to influence. And we have no way of knowing when he should recuse himself from the untold number of matters involving dark money funders he used to solicit, because he has never yet told the truth about who they are.”
Naomi Ages, an activist speaking for the group Greenpeace, said “the fact that Scott Pruitt has to recuse himself from so many cases, many of which are extremely high profile, is evidence that he shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near the E.P.A.”