The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt's total disdain for environmentalism isn't exactly a secret. Remember, he's a strident climate change denier and he spent years as the Oklahoma attorney general working with fossil fuel representatives to challenge Obama-era environmental legislation. Now, even as he leads an agency designed to protect the environment – it's in the title – he seems to be trying his darndest to do the opposite, whether that's by repealing the Clean Power Act or removing tax credits on renewables.
So while it might not be all that surprising, it's still shocking to see the number of meetings he's held with fossil fuel executives compared to those he's had with environmental groups. The 316-page calendar, made public at the request of the nonprofit American Oversight, reveals back-to-back meetings with industry leaders, high-end dinners with energy lobbyists, and pricey flights to his home state of Oklahoma.
It should be noted that Pruitt is the first EPA Administrator in decades to refuse to publicly post his appointments calendar. He is notoriously secretive about his activities – he's had his own soundproof booth installed and, according to reports, he avoids communicating via written email. This document – detailing Pruit's schedule between February and August, revealing who he met and when and where they met during that timeframe – might help explain why.
The New York Times describes one particular day (April 26) when the EPA Administrator lunched with top execs from a large coal-burning electric utility, dined with the board of directors of a huge coal mining company (at a steakhouse in Trump's International Hotel in Washington, no less), and spoke to representatives from General Motors about their request to reverse a regulation introduced under the previous administration to help reduce fossil fuel emissions. According to the Times, this was simply "a typical day" for Pruitt.
Journalists at CNN have done some calculations of their own, working out how many meetings Pruitt has held with individuals from different industries.
"A recently public copy of his schedule reveals that he has held more than 100 meetings with industry reps between April and early September. That makes up roughly 25 percent of all his meetings. In comparison, he has met with environmental groups and scientists for a grand total of five times. That makes up around 1 percent of all meetings," CNN reports.
"He's met with representatives of oil, gas, electric, biofuel and other such companies almost 35 times. The next most penciled-in groups is (sic) farmers, ranchers, and agriculturalists. The top two are followed by manufacturing, mining and finally environmentalists."
In response to these criticisms, an EPA spokesperson has said: “As E.P.A. has been the poster child for regulatory overreach, the agency is now meeting with those ignored by the Obama administration.”
But, according to departmental staff, there's an atmosphere of paranoia in the agency. "[E]mployees feel like there’s been a hostile takeover and the guy in charge is treating them like enemies,” Christopher Sellers, an expert in environmental history at Stony Brook University who earlier this year oversaw an interview survey with 40 EPA staffers, told The Times.