The Environmental Protection Agency signed a $24,570 contract to build a soundproof cubicle for administrator Scott Pruitt’s office, The Washington Post reported on Tuesday. Why might Pruitt, who once advocated for “dismantling the EPA’s activist agenda” as Oklahoma attorney general, need a soundproof office? Hm.
Acoustical Solutions, the company that was contracted to build Pruitt’s “privacy booth,” said that such orders are typically for rooms where hearing tests are conducted. People who are inside the booth can’t be heard from outside the booth — making it the perfect place for Pruitt to chat with energy executives whose business interests he so valiantly defends.
Here’s how Steve Snider, an associate sales consultant at Acoustical Solutions, described the purchase to the Post:
“They had a lot of modifications,” said Steve Snider, an acoustic sales consultant with the company, who worked with the agency on its order earlier this summer. “Their main goal was they wanted essentially a secure phone booth that couldn’t be breached from a data point of view or from someone standing outside eavesdropping.”
But the soundproof room is unnecessary, as the Post noted, because the EPA already has a secure room where officials with proper clearances can share classified information. In a statement, EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman said that all cabinet members required rooms that were impenetrable to outside hacking. “It’s called a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF),” said Bowman. “This is something which a number, if not all, Cabinet offices have and EPA needs to have updated.”
Former EPA spokeswoman Liz Purchia-Gannon, who represented Gina McCarthy during Obama’s administration, told The New York Times that constructing a privacy booth was “bizarre” and unprecedented. While it might be “bizarre” that an EPA administrator who has advocated for slashing his agency’s budget spent taxpayer dollars on a soundproof room, the request remains altogether unsurprising given Pruitt’s notoriously clandestine effort to deregulate and “dismantle” the agency.
Perhaps instead of traipsing around to undisclosed meetings with corporate executives flanked by 18 bodyguards, Pruitt will just hide in his new privacy booth — which I’m guessing could double as a panic room.