The Environmental Protection Agency under administrator Scott Pruitt is a lobbyist’s dream come true, as the agency has been operating in favor of the very industries it’s supposed to be regulating, EPA emails show.
According to The Washington Post, the communications between EPA policy aides and lobbyists are part of tens of thousands of emails obtained by a public records lawsuit brought by the Sierra Club. They show a cozy relationship between lobbyists whose industries specifically benefited from agency decisions to relax regulations, including in the portable generator market, and the waste management, golf, and livestock industries, among others.
These decisions will have a lasting impact on the health and safety of consumers. Regarding the generators, the report said the Portable Generators Manufacturers’ Association for months had been trying to block federal regulations that were 15 years in the making to require manufacturers to make their products safer. According to the Post, these types of generators cause about 70 accidental deaths each year due to carbon monoxide poisoning.
The report noted:
Just before President Barack Obama left office, the Consumer Product Safety Commission had voted to force the industry to make generators that emit lower levels of the poisonous gas. Now industry lobbyists were warning [EPA appointee Mandy] Gunasekara of “a potential turf battle . . . brewing” between the commission and the EPA, which traditionally regulates air emissions from engines.
Less than six weeks later, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt sent a letter informing Ann Marie Buerkle, the commission’s acting chair, that his agency had primary jurisdiction over the issue. Just over three months later, Buerkle shelved regulations that had been almost 15 years in the making and opted instead for voluntary standards.
In March 2017, a lobbyist for the company Waste Management wrote two EPA appointees, telling them another lobbyist “sings your praises.” The Waste Management lobbyist wanted a rule regulating methane emissions at landfills addressed. The EPA under Pruitt was happy to oblige, delaying implementation of that rule until 2020, the newspaper reported.
Additionally, a golf industry lobbyist wanted the Clean Water Rule repealed. And a pork industry lawyer wanted air emissions rules dealt with.
According to the Post:
And in June 2017, Michael Formica, a lawyer for the National Pork Producers Council, sent a note “from my SwinePhone” thanking Gunasekara and other senior Pruitt aides “for your efforts to help address the recent air emission reporting issues facing livestock agriculture.” The EPA later revamped its guidelines so that pork, poultry and dairy operations do not have to report on potentially hazardous air pollutants arising from animal waste.
Brendan Fischer, of the Campaign Legal Center, called the operational environment at the agency an “open-door policy” for industries. “As these emails show, when lobbyists ask top EPA officials to jump, the answer is often ‘how high,’” he told the Post.
In a separate revelation produced by the Sierra Club lawsuit and reported on Twitter by New York Times investigative reporter Eric Lipton, early in his role as administrator, Pruitt liked to write actual letters and send them by snail mail to oil and gas executives.
He wrote to BP America Chairman and President John Minge that, “Our discussion was extremely helpful in understanding and learning more about some of the issues facing BP.”
In a letter to Chevron Chairman and CEO John Watson, Pruitt added a handwritten message saying, “Wonderful to spend time together!”
To an Oklahoma gas company CEO, the EPA administrator said he “very much” appreciated the “time and counsel” on a variety of issues facing the industry.
And the list of letters continues on and on. Read them here:
By now, a compilation of Scott Pruitt’s Greatest Hits of Corruption during his short term as head of the agency fills pages and pages. These new reports on the emails and personal letters sheds additional light on just cozy his office and staff are with industry lobbyists. This is not good.
Read the entire Washington Post report here.