Scott Pruitt Takes All the Credit and None of the Blame for His Scandal-Filled Time at the EPA

Here’s who he threw under the bus today.

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Newscom/ZUMA

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Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt made a strong assertion of  his ultimate responsibility for what goes on at the EPA when he made his opening statement to the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee, in a hearing that was dominated by questions about his ethics.

“I have nothing to hide,” he said. “The responsibility for identifying and making changes rests with me and no one else.”

But Pruitt spent much of the remainder of the three-hour hearing shifting the blame to EPA career employees, his environmental critics, and the media. He distanced himself from all of the controversies on his watch. “I am not aware,” became his favorite refrain. 

Asked about the $43,000 soundproof phone booth he had built in his office (the cost of which ballooned from the original estimate), Pruitt said that career staff had made all the decisions without his knowledge.

 

The Atlantic reported that Pruitt had personally signed off on raises for two of EPA staffers he knew from his Oklahoma days, after the White House rejected the raises. The raises were approved under Safe Drinking Water Act. But when Rep. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y) asked about it, Pruitt replied, “I’m not aware if she was hired under that Drinking Water Act authority.”

Under Pruitt’s watch, the EPA’s enforcement penalties against polluters has dropped by 49 percent compared to his predecessors. Pruitt said he was not involved in one fine against a seed company that was reduced from $4.9 million to $150,000. Pruitt had hired Jeff Sands, a former Sygenta pesticides lobbyist as a senior adviser at the EPA.

Then there were the reports that Pruitt had retaliated against multiple staffers who questioned his spending requests:

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Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

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