Two of Scott Pruitt’s most trusted aides have given notice that they are leaving the Environmental Protection Agency as its embattled administrator faces growing scrutiny over his spending and management decisions, according to current and former agency officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss personnel moves.
The departures of Sarah Greenwalt, Pruitt’s senior counsel, and Millan Hupp, his director for scheduling and advance — both of whom had worked with Pruitt since his days as Oklahoma attorney general — leave the EPA chief increasingly isolated as he faces a dozen federal spending and ethics probes.
The departures are the latest and possibly most significant in a growing list of political appointees who have left the agency. Top public affairs official Liz Bowman left last month to handle communications for Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), who this week criticized Pruitt as “about as swampy as you get.” Her departure followed that of top policy adviser Samantha Dravis, who worked alongside Pruitt when he headed the Republican Attorneys General Association and was one of the first aides he hired at EPA.
Pruitt’s longtime friend and former aide, Albert “Kell” Kelly, hired by Pruitt to revitalize the agency’s cleanup of toxic waste sites, resigned in early May. That same day, the head of Pruitt’s personal security detail, Pasquale “Nino” Perrotta, also announced his retirement. Perrotta had faced questions from a congressional oversight committee about his role in Pruitt’s security arrangements, which have been more extensive than those of previous EPA administrators. He initially had planned to step down this summer but accelerated his retirement, officials said at the time.
Trump praised Pruitt at a FEMA event today and said the EPA is “doing very, very well.”
Greenwalt, who also worked as Pruitt’s general counsel in Oklahoma, advised the EPA chief on a wide range of issues and traveled widely with him domestically and internationally as he met with industry officials and promoted the Trump administration’s goal of reversing many Obama-era environmental regulations. She found herself in the spotlight earlier this year after she briefly received 52 percent raise, before Pruitt reversed the decision amid public outcry.
Hupp, Pruitt’s top scheduling and advance official, also worked with Pruitt in Oklahoma, helping with fundraising under his political action committees. Her departure was reported Wednesday by The Atlantic.
At EPA, Hupp served as a gatekeeper, travel planner and confidante of the administrator. In thousands of pages of emails released in recent weeks under the Freedom of Information Act, it is clear that Hupp — always upbeat, unfailingly polite — played a key role in lining up where Pruitt traveled, who he met with and what speeches he gave around the country.
Hupp also initially received a large raise earlier this year of nearly 33 percent, which Pruitt reversed. Her work for Pruitt on personal tasks recently drew the attention of lawmakers on Capitol Hill. The tasks included helping with his D.C. housing hunt, booking his personal travel and even contacting the Trump hotel in search of a mattress on his behalf.
In an emailed statement Wednesday, Pruitt called Hupp “a valued member of the EPA team from day one, serving an integral role in our efforts to take the President’s message of environmental stewardship across the country.”
“I’ve had the opportunity to know Millan for the last several years as a colleague, friend and trusted partner,” he added. “She has done outstanding work in all of her endeavors here and will be sorely missed. I wish her all the best.”
On Thursday, the EPA put out another statement about the departure of Greenwalt, who will depart next week and return to Oklahoma to serve as general counsel to the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Commission..
“Sarah has been a tremendous leader within the agency, overseeing the start of the [Waters of the United States] rewrite as well as playing a vital role in our international relations,” Pruitt said. “While her work ethic, dedication and friendship will be missed at the agency, I know she will find success in her future endeavors in Oklahoma.”
In a separate statement, Greenwalt said it had been “an honor and privilege to serve at EPA alongside some of the most dedicated and hardworking public servants.” She added of Pruitt that she will “always admire his visionary leadership and tenacity.”
The latest departures come a day after the Post reported that Pruitt had used his official position and an EPA staffer — Millan Hupp’s sister, Sydney Hupp — to try to line up a meeting with a Chick-fil-A executive to discuss a possible franchise for Pruitt’s wife.
In response to a question about the incident by a reporter from Nexstar Media, Pruitt initially dismissed the criticism, saying, “With great change comes opposition.”
“I love, we love, she loves [Chick-fil-A],” he added, calling it “a franchise of faith and it’s one of the best in the country. That’s something we were very excited about.”