EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt offered up a vigorous defense of his record amid negative media coverage of his travel, security, and living expenses Thursday in testifying before two House subcommittees.
The chief of the Environmental Protection Agency, who also testified before an Appropriations Committee panel, said attacks on him and his staff are part of a larger agenda to derail President Donald Trump’s efforts to cut burdensome regulations on individuals and businesses.
“I simply will not let that happen,” he said.
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Although both hearings had been scheduled to address the EPA’s budget, committee members spent the bulk of their time questioning Pruitt about allegations concerning his public expenditures and management decisions.
Beforehand, EPA officials distributed a 23-page document disputing what the agency describes as “false claims” circulated in the news media concerning Pruitt’s international travel, security expenses, and housing arrangements.
The document cites information showing that Pruitt’s international travel costs so far actually are lower than those of his predecessors in the Obama administration.
Pruitt, in office since Feb. 17, 2017, has taken two international trips costing a total of $160,000.
His immediate predecessor as EPA administrator under the Obama administration, Gina McCarthy, took 10 international trips costing $630,000. McCarthy’s immediate predecessor, Lisa Jackson, took four international trips costing $332,000, according to the document.
Allegations against Pruitt made by political opponents and some in the media have been looked into by the EPA’s inspector general, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, the Government Accountability Office, and the White House.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke also has come under criticism in the media, in large part for his use of chartered flights. But as The Daily Signal reported last week, Zinke’s chartered flight expenses are lower than those of two predecessors under the Obama administration.
In his opening statement before the Energy and Commerce subcommittee on environment, Pruitt, the former attorney general of Oklahoma, defended himself against the allegations while highlighting cost savings to taxpayers that have been produced through deregulation.
“I realize there have been very troubling media reports over the past few weeks,” Pruitt told committee members, adding:
I promise you that I more than anyone want to establish the hard facts and provide answers to questions surrounding these reports. Let me be very clear, I have nothing to hide as it relates to how I have run the agency for the past 16 months. I’m not afraid to admit that there has been a learning process. When Congress or independent bodies find fault in our decision-making, I want to correct that and ensure that it does not happen again. Ultimately, as administrator of the EPA, the responsibility for making necessary changes rests with me and no one else.
With that being said, facts are facts and fiction is fiction. And a lie doesn’t become truth just because it appears on the front page of a newspaper. Much of what has been targeted toward me and my team has been half-truths or at best stories so twisted they do not represent reality.
But committee Democrats who insisted on simple “yes or no” answers to their questions accused Pruitt of evading responsibility for the EPA’s deregulatory and other actions that they and other critics have questioned.