EPA Is Reportedly Set To Roll Back Obama-Era Fuel Economy Standards

02 April, 2018, 03:04 | Author: Orlando Hughes
  • Pruitt arranged condo deal through energy lobbyist, source says

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is expected to announce in the coming days that it will be rolling back the fuel economy targets for cars and SUVs-a move that could be welcomed by auto manufacturers, but that could also send the Administration toward a legal clash with California, which has vowed not to back down on fuel efficiency standards.

That alone is enough to warrant serious inquiry.

Friday it was revealed that Pruitt's security detail broke the door of his condo when he didn't answer the door. "He's destroying my hardwood floors", Pruitt's chief of staff was told, the source said.

Vicki Hart declined to comment Friday. The building is co-owned by Vicki Hart, a health care lobbyist. Hart is the chairman of lobbying firm Williams and Jensen that lobbies on EPA policies like the Clean Air Act, according to its website.

Among other clients, Williams & Jensen represents a company called Cheniere Energy Inc., a liquefied natural gas company that Pruitt just happened to name-drop during a trip to Morocco last December.

Information for this article was contributed by Tim Talley of The Associated Press.

Steven Hart's firm did not respond to questions about how much Pruitt paid.

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While the condo lacked some of the amenities of traditional rentals, such as a full kitchen or phone line, $50 per night is an exceedingly good deal for a prime location near the Capitol.

Bloomberg reported on Thursday that, in total, Pruitt paid $6,100 to use one room in the two-bedroom condo during a six month period in 2017. This probably goes without saying, but that's well below the going rate for a comparable one-bedroom condo located about a block from the U.S. Capitol. One-bedroom apartments in the building, which is owned by a large development company, start at about $3,100 per month and go to almost $4,500.

Steven Hart defended the arrangement in a statement via his lobbying firm. At his current interest rate, Pruitt would be paying almost $5,500 per month on his mortgage and property taxes. "Pruitt paid all rent owed as agreed to in the lease". He said the condo was partly owned by his wife, who he said has not lobbied the EPA.

Not by a long shot. That effort includes groups like the Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, and League of Conservation Voters, who argue that Pruitt's decisions benefit the oil and gas industries. Campaign finance reports from Oklahoma show more than three dozen OGE executives donated to Pruitt's 2014 re-election campaign for state attorney general, even though he was running without a Democratic opponent. Hart represents Cheniere Energy, the company that owns the only Liquid Natural Gas export plant that was active when Pruitt travelled to Morocco a year ago on a taxpayer funded trip to tout liquid natural gas. At best, having the head of the EPA enter into an improbably favorable rental arrangement with the spouse of a major energy lobbying firm's CEO is highly suspect.

This is a "serious violation of ethics law" said Norm Eisen, former White House ethics czar under the Obama administration.

EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox released a statement from EPA Senior Counsel for Ethics Justina Fugh on Friday that said she didn't "conclude that this is a prohibited gift at all".

But even if it was a gift, she reasoned, it would have been permissible because Pruitt is friends with the Hart couple, so it would have been an example of what's called a "gift exception" from friends.

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