Scott Pruitt, the Environmental Protection Agency’s newest Administrator and one of President Donald Trump’s more controversial and hotly-debated Cabinet selections, has raised eyebrows following reports revealing he has spent nearly half of the earliest three months of his tenure in Oklahoma, his home state, instead of operating primarily out of EPA headquarters in Washington, D.C.
The information was reported after Pruitt’s travel records were obtained by the Environmental Integrity Project, a nonprofit watchdog group that monitors environmental regulations and lobbies for better effectiveness and oversight.
Pruitt, who officially became head of the EPA on February 17, 2017, had previously served two four-year terms in the Oklahoma State Senate, followed by a six-year stint as the state’s Attorney General.
He drew criticism while campaigning for the AG position when it was revealed that he’d received considerable financial contributions from the oil and gas industry, and once in office, developed a reputation as a climate-change denier (at least in relation to the impact of human activities on the climate).
He also drew attention for his outspokenness and opposition to what he considered to be the EPA’s ‘activist agenda.’ While serving as Oklahoma’s Attorney General, Pruitt filed at least 14 lawsuits against the EPA, actions which were well-publicized and subsequently stirred up considerable debate following his nomination by President-elect Trump to head up the agency he (Pruitt) appeared to view so negatively.
According to the Environmental Integrity Project’s findings, for the 92 days of March, April and May, 2017, Pruitt spent 42 of them in Oklahoma.
Pruitt’s travel records for the period show that the EPA head and staff spent considerable time in meetings with representatives of the gas and oil industry, attending events and delivering speeches, primarily in his home state.
The records also reveal that airfare expenditures (for Pruitt alone) to and from the Sooner State exceeded $12,000, but that figure doesn’t include lodging and travel costs pertaining to his entourage, which consisted of his administrative staff and security detail.
The records also show that on at least some of Pruitt’s Oklahoma-related trips, he personally paid expenses, but how much and how often wasn’t verified.
In a statement released by Reuters, EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman defended Pruitt’s travel schedule.
Pruitt’s extensive ‘back-home’ travels are generally considered unusual according to sources close to recent former EPA administrators Lisa Jackson and Gina McCarthy, both of whom served under former President Barack Obama.
As evidence that he shares President Trump’s relative disdain for the scientific consensus opinion regarding the reasons for climate change, Scott Pruitt has wasted little time in reversing more than 30 Obama Administration-era regulations in slightly more than six months.
By contrast, that figure surpasses the total number of reversals/rollbacks implemented in the 47-year history of the agency.
Not surprisingly, these unprecedented moves have both mystified and infuriated environmental/conservation activists, who point to the President’s ‘pro-business’ agenda as the main culprit in what they’re calling an ‘assault on the environment’ at the cost of the earth’s nonrenewable natural resources.