Scott Pruitt gives his EPA friends raises using water law loophole


Unlike most environmental laws, Scott Pruitt is a big fan of the Safe Drinking Water Act. Because it lets him hand money to his friends.

EPA administrator Scott Pruitt has turned back the clock on keeping our waterways clean and safe. But there is one obscure water-protection law he likes — because it lets him give his cronies raises.

According to a report in the Atlantic, Pruitt used a loophole in the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1996 to give two political appointees five-figure raises, even though the Presidential Personnel Office rejected Pruitt's application to increase their pay.

Under this loophole, Pruitt simply rehired Sarah Hupp and Millan Greenwelt, who have been with him since his days as Oklahoma attorney general, as "specialists," after which "the agency began processing them for raises of $28,130 and $56,765, respectively, compared with their 2017 salaries."

By contrast, however, Pruitt is wholly uninterested in using water quality laws to actually improve the quality of water. For example, he blocked implementation of an Obama administration rule, issued under the Clean Water Act, that requires farmers and ranchers to protect streams that flow through their property.

He has also done away with regulations that prevent power plants from disposing of coal ash in ponds — even though children born and raised near these ponds exhibit birth defects, learning disabilities, asthma, and cancer.

The EPA chief has come under fire for systematically exploiting his office for personal gain in numerous ways.

For one, Pruitt has spent an absurd amount of money on travel, on taxpayers' dime, including $90,000 on first-class airline tickets in one month alone. He claimed he needs to fly first class because people in economy seats might beat him up. This stretches the imagination, given that he is spending millions of taxpayer dollars on a 24/7 security detail, at one point even taking them to Disneyland.

Pruitt also faces scrutiny for "leasing" a D.C. condo from a lobbyist at far below market value, even as his agency approved a pipeline extension for a company represented by that lobbyist's firm. This same condo, according to the Daily Beast, is "a hub for Republican lawmakers hoping to raise money for their congressional campaigns."

That Pruitt would exploit a federal law to reward his political allies is simply business as usual. But the fact that the law he uses was passed to protect water, even as he scraps rules to do just that, makes the whole affair downright insane.

Americans deserve an EPA that protects the environment. Instead, Pruitt is using it to benefit himself and his friends.