When Scott Pruitt visited Colorado in August, he took some time to shoot a video for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. In it, he attacked an Obama-era clean water rule. Now congressional Democrats say Pruitt might have broken the law. If he didn’t, he sure skated closer to the line than the head of the Environmental Protection Agency should.
Pruitt spoke out against the Waters of the United States rule in the video and urged ranchers to comment on it. The Beef Association posted it on their website and further urged people to tell their representatives not to allow the EPA “to trample on your constitutional rights.”
The Waters of the United States rule, sometimes called WOTUS, was passed to clarify which wetlands and other bodies of the water in the nation are protected by the Clean Water Act after the Supreme Court confused the issue.
But to Pruitt and his friends in the cattle industry, the rule is nothing but federal overreach. In the video, Pruitt said the rule was a way to expand the Clean Water Act to cover “a puddle, a dry creek bed and ephemeral drainage ditches across this country.”
Democrats, who by and large want to protect Barack Obama’s environmental legacy, cried foul. In a letter to the head of the Government Accountability Office, four top congressional Democrats asked for an investigation into whether Pruitt’s appearance broke rules prohibiting federal officials from using taxpayer money “for publicity or propaganda purposes, and for the preparation, distribution or use of any kit, pamphlet, booklet, publication, radio, television, or film presentation designed to support or defeat legislation pending before the Congress.”
That looks pretty straightforward to us.
As Oklahoma’s attorney general, Pruitt was well known for being exceptionally cozy with the special interests that funded his campaigns and for using his office to further their agenda. He sued the EPA more than a dozen times over regulations affecting the oil and gas industry.
But now that he’s head of the EPA, he should know better than to actually appear in an industry propaganda video while traveling in his official capacity. He should, but, apparently, he does not.
This is not the only controversy surrounding Pruitt — or his travels to Colorado. He is one of several Trump Cabinet members under scrutiny for spending taxpayer money for travel on private jets.
Pruitt has spent at least $58,000 on noncommercial and military flights — including $5,700 for a flight from Denver to Durango. In that case, despite an offer from Gov. John Hickenlooper to ride on the state plane, Pruitt said he needed a charter flight to Durango because a delay of his previously scheduled commercial flight would have caused him to miss an important meeting at Gold King Mine. All of the other flights with his staff and security detail that, coincidentally, brought Pruitt close to home for the weekend aren’t so easily dismissed.
President Donald Trump ran promising to “drain the swamp.” In his inaugural address, he promised that his administration would be “transferring power from Washington, D.C., and giving it back to you, the people.”
When numerous officials get caught up in scandals for flying around in private jets at taxpayer expense and for being way too cozy with special interests, Trump’s promises ring very hollow.
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