Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt and the White House reportedly sought to block the publication of a study detailing a nationwide water contamination crisis because—as one White House aide wrote in an email—it would be a “public relations nightmare,” according to a Monday report from Politico.
That email, forwarded in January by James Herz, who heads environmental issues at the Office of Management and Budget, read:
The public, media, and Congressional reaction to these numbers is going to be huge. ... The impact to EPA and [the Defense Department] is going to be extremely painful. We (DoD and EPA) cannot seem to get ATSDR to realize the potential public relations nightmare this is going to be.
According to the emails—which were recently released to the Union of Concerned Scientists under the Freedom of Information Act—the Health and Human Services study showed a class of toxic chemicals (used in products like Teflon and firefighting foam) has been contaminating water supplies across the country and are dangerous to humans at much lower levels than the EPA has previously declared to be safe.
As Politico also reported, the drawback of releasing the study for chemical executives and government agencies like the Defense Department is that it could dramatically increase the cost of cleaning up at sites like military bases and chemical plants.
Months later, the study remains unpublished, with HHS telling the site that there’s no scheduled date for its release.
Pruitt’s lucrative spending habits have been (justifiably) widely covered, but they are not nearly as concerning as what’s happening underneath, hidden from public view. The unethical expensing of first-class plane tickets and soundproof phone booths is blatantly corrupt, but it’s important to remember that it’s this type of industry-friendly grift that certainly helps keep Pruitt around.