Democracy Dies in Darkness

Health & Science

Pruitt faced mounting financial pressures as EPA chief, new documents show

By Juliet Eilperin, Brady Dennis, Josh Dawsey

September 12, 2018 at 3:13 PM

Then-Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt listens as President Trump speaks during a Cabinet meeting on June 21. (Evan Vucci/AP)

Scott Pruitt, the former chief of the Environmental Protection Agency, faced mounting financial pressures during his tumultuous tenure as one of President Trump’s most polarizing Cabinet members, documents show.

Pruitt, who made $189,600 a year as EPA administrator before he resigned in July, rang up between $115,000 and $300,000 in legal fees last year, according to financial disclosure forms released Wednesday. Those figures don’t include legal bills incurred this year, when the bulk of the allegations about his spending and management habits emerged.

But his financial fortunes may be about to change.

Pruitt, a lawyer by trade, is in talks with billionaire coal executive Joseph W. Craft III, a longtime friend, about working for him in a “personal” capacity. Craft is president and chief executive of Alliance Resource Partners, based in Tulsa.

“Any discussions that occurred between Mr. Craft and Mr. Pruitt are preliminary, and do not involve him becoming an employee of Alliance Resource Partners,” company spokesman Heath Lovell said. “Obviously, any discussions would not involve lobbying the federal government.”

Pruitt, who is barred under an executive order from engaging in “lobbying activities” related to the EPA for five years, championed several policies that directly affect Craft’s company.

Those policies include relaxing federal limits on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and easing requirements for storing toxic waste generated by coal plants.

Craft, who along with his wife gave more than $2 million to Trump’s campaign and inauguration, had an unusual degree of access to Pruitt while the former Oklahoma attorney general helmed the EPA. He met with Craft more than half a dozen times while in office, according to agency records previously ­released under the Freedom of Information Act.

In December, Pruitt and his son sat in courtside seats reserved for Craft at a University of Kentucky basketball home game, the New York Times reported earlier this year. According to an EPA spokesman at the time, Pruitt reimbursed the coal executive in cash for the tickets’ $260 market value.

Alliance Resource Partners ranks as the nation’s seventh­largest coal company, supplying more than two dozen power plants and boasting employees in Oklahoma, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky and West Virginia.

Craft was there in March 2017 when the president signed an executive order to reverse several climate policies enacted by the Obama administration. Both he and Pruitt also attended a National Mining Association board of directors meeting at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort in Naples, Fla.

“It will be wonderful to see the Crafts,” Sydney Hupp, Pruitt’s executive scheduler, wrote in advance of the trip.

While Pruitt has kept a low profile since stepping down in July, three individuals familiar with the matter said he is now searching for work in the private sector and is exploring setting up his own business. The individuals spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations. Pruitt is said to have raised the idea last week, when he attended the Kentucky Coal Association’s annual meeting.

Pruitt’s attorney, Cleta Mitchell, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

The documents offer a glimpse of the strains facing the former EPA administrator, who enlisted his staff to help his wife find work and to perform personal tasks for him.

Last year, Pruitt sold off at least $50,000 in investments during a time when he maintained residences in both Washington and Oklahoma.

The financial disclosures do not specify what legal services Pruitt needed. But by the time he resigned, his spending and management practices had triggered more than a dozen federal investigations, and last fall he hired private lawyers to represent him.

Pruitt’s other debts in 2017 included a balance of $10,000 to $15,000 on his Chase credit card and the mortgage on his $1.2 million home in Tulsa.

The new disclosures also show that his wife, Marlyn, earned between $15,000 and $50,000 last year as a consultant. The Post reported in June that Pruitt had enlisted the help of EPA employees and outside allies to line up a job for his wife, a trained nurse who had spent two decades raising their children. The Judicial Crisis Network, a conservative group affiliated with the Federalist Society, ultimately hired her on a short-term basis.

Pruitt has been granted an extension to file his termination report, which will include disclosures for 2018. It is due by Nov. 5.

Pruitt apparently still may face scrutiny for accepting gifts while helming the agency.

“To the extent I am aware of specific allegations, I dispute the facts asserted and, accordingly, am not aware of reportable gifts,” Pruitt states in the document. “In the event there are any future findings to the contrary, I will address the issue at that time and amend this report as directed and/or necessary.”

Read more

Related: IG report: EPA lacked justification, authority for Pruitt’s 24-7 security detail

Related: With a shrinking EPA, Trump cuts government as hundreds of scientists leave

Related: EPA proposes relaxing limits on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants


Juliet Eilperin is The Washington Post's senior national affairs correspondent, covering how the new administration is transforming a range of U.S. policies and the federal government itself. She is the author of two books — one on sharks and another on Congress, not to be confused with each other — and has worked for The Post since 1998.

Brady Dennis is a national reporter for The Washington Post, focusing on the environment and public health issues. He previously spent years covering the nation’s economy. Dennis was a finalist for the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for a series of explanatory stories about the global financial crisis.

Josh Dawsey is a White House reporter for The Washington Post. He joined the paper in 2017. He previously covered the White House for Politico, and New York City Hall and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie for the Wall Street Journal.

Post Recommends
Outbrain

Health & Science

Pruitt faced mounting financial pressures as EPA chief, new documents show

By Juliet Eilperin, Brady Dennis, Josh Dawsey

September 12, 2018 at 3:13 PM

Then-Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt listens as President Trump speaks during a Cabinet meeting on June 21. (Evan Vucci/AP)

Scott Pruitt, the former chief of the Environmental Protection Agency, faced mounting financial pressures during his tumultuous tenure as one of President Trump’s most polarizing Cabinet members, documents show.

We're glad you're enjoying The Washington Post.

Get access to this story, and every story, on the web and in our apps with our Basic Digital subscription.

Already a subscriber?