Trump doesn't publicly repeat praise of Pruitt

Lynn Cook
April 4, 2018

ABC News and Bloomberg News reported last week that during his first six months in Washington a year ago, Mr Pruitt made a deal to pay about US$50 a night - less than a third the price for similar properties - to rent a room in a Capitol Hill neighbourhood condo building co-owned by energy industry lobbyist Steven Hart and his wife. A memo signed by Kevin Minoli contended that the $50-a-night payments constituted a fair market rate.

"All Americans. deserve to enjoy fuel-efficient, low-emission cars and light trucks that save money on gas, improve our health and support American jobs", the attorneys general from 11 states said in a statement responding to Pruitt's proposal on Monday to ease the Obama-era standards. Pruitt actually paid a total of $6,100 over the six-month period he leased the condo, an average of about $1,000 a month.

But current rental listings for two-bedroom apartments in the neighborhood show they typically go for far more than what Pruitt paid. Also left unanswered was how Pruitt came to rent a property tied to a lobbyist with business interests involving his agency.

Pruitt claims he rented only one room in the couple's two-bedroom condo.

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The unusual arrangement has attracted attention in Washington, where Pruitt has been under increasing scrutiny for this frequent taxpayer-funded travel, which has included first-class airline tickets. Though federal regulations typically require federal officials to fly in coach, the EPA chief has said he needed to sit in premium seats due to security concerns.

An agency ethics official at the EPA has insisted that Pruitt's lease didn't violate federal ethics rules. He jokingly tweeted on Friday that he would like to rent the Harts prime location condo for $50-a-night.

In November 2016, the Obama administration "short-circuited" the MTE process and rushed its final determination on January 12, 2017, just days before leaving office, the EPA claims, adding that since then, the auto industry and other stakeholders have sought a reinstatement of the original MTE timeline so that the agency could review the latest information.

Members of the Trump administration continue to have difficulty following basic ethical standards.

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Pruitt is just the latest Trump administration Cabinet official to find himself at the center of controversy.

Ros-Lehtinen, who is not seeking re-election, said in a statement she agreed Pruitt should step down.

One of Pruitt's recent trips, to Morocco, was to promote the "potential benefit of liquefied natural gas imports", according to the EPA. Cheniere is now the only exporter of liquefied natural gas from the continental United States. But the energy company Cheniere Energy, Inc. reported paying Hart's lobbying firm $80,000 in 2017. When Pruitt ran for office in Oklahoma, he hired an oil billionaire to run his re-election campaign and used his position to sue the EPA to stop ozone and methane emissions rules and block regulations on coal-fired power plants.

CARB Chair Mary D. Nichols called Pruitt's actions "a politically motivated effort to weaken clean vehicle standards with no documentation, evidence, or law to back up that decision".

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