Tempers flared as Scott Pruitt, the embattled administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), sat down Thursday before two congressional panels for a long day of questioning about his policies and the way he runs his agency.
Pruitt was already on the defensive as he settled into his chair to testify before the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee at 10 a.m. He will also appear before a House Appropriations Committee panel around 2 p.m. But the person he needs to impress — the person who can decide Pruitt’s fate — will be watching from the
Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., a ranking member of the Energy and Commerce subcommittee, was among Pruitt’s fiercest critics.
“I’m confident that these investigations will affirm what I have come to believe is true: that you’re unfit to hold public office and undeserving of the public trust,” Pallone said. “And I don’t say those words because I particularly dislike you or hold you in ill repute. I just think that every indication we have is you really should resign and you are undeserving of the public trust.”
He called Pruitt out for allegedly creating an environment of fear of reprisal at the agency, which has caused public servants to flee and important initiatives to stall — most notably a proposed ban on a deadly chemical in common paint removers that’s still claiming lives.
He harshly criticized Pruitt’s opening statement in which he rationalized not resigning by saying he’s the only person who can carry out
“I actually disagree with that. I think your actions are an embarrassment to President Trump and distract from the EPA’s ability to effectively carry out the president’s mission,” Pallone said. “And if I were the president, I wouldn’t want your help. I’d just get rid of you.”
Pallone referred to reports that Pruitt even retaliated against EPA employees for questioning his spending patterns or management style, and sidelined staffers who tried to advance important measures to safeguard the public health. When asked whether these reports were true or false, Pruitt responded, “I don’t ever recall a conversation to that end.”
Pallone also asked Pruitt about reports that he removed an official who disputed Pruitt’s assertion that he needed a larger security detail because he faced death threats. When asked whether it was his policy to fire people who disagree with him, Pruitt said, “Congressman, the inspector general himself has noted that the threats against me are unprecedented, with respect to the quantity and type of threats.”
“Well, you’re not answering yes or no,” Pallone said. “Six staffers is a pattern. I think you need to start taking responsibility. You say you’re going to take responsibility, but you don’t.”
The New Jersey lawmaker expressed concern that Pruitt had created a fear-of-retaliation environment at the EPA, which has caused career officials to leave — only to be replaced by industry lobbyists.
To illustrate his point, Pallone referenced the case of
has been linked to fatal poisonings. The 10/21/us/trump-epa-chemicals-regulations.html" rel="nofollow noopener" target=&