Published: Mon, April 02, 2018
Global | By Shelia Dennis

Top EPA official: Pruitt's condo rental met ethics rules

Top EPA official: Pruitt's condo rental met ethics rules

The EPA reimbursed Pruitt's landlord, the wife of a top energy lobbyist J. Steven Hart, for the damage. Cheniere, the lobbying client of Hart's firm, is now the only exporter of liquefied natural gas from the continental United States.

In addition, The Post has detailed how Pruitt's office spent $43,000 on a private, soundproof phone booth for the administrator's office previous year - $25,000 on the custom-made booth and another $18,000 on prepping the space for it, including pouring a 2-foot-thick concrete slab.

But while officials in the West Wing are reviewing the seriousness of the questions around Pruitt, it was too soon to know if the EPA secretary would face harsh internal questioning or draw the ire of President's Donald Trump, according to a White House official not authorized to speak publicly about private discussions.

As Oklahoma attorney general, Mr. Pruitt joined with one of OGE Energy's subsidiaries, Oklahoma Gas & Electric, to sue the Obama administration over a regional haze rule that would have required coal-fired power plants to install pollution controls. This comes just one day after environmental groups launched a separate campaign to "boot Pruitt" from the EPA. "This needs to be investigated by the EPA's Office of Inspector General and Congress", Schaeffer said. Another batch of expenditures recently released to a House oversight committee detailed at least an additional $68,000 in premium travel costs for Pruitt since August. In the Capitol Hill neighborhood where Pruitt was staying, the average is $142 per night.

The deal Pruitt had was an unusual one. For undisclosed reasons, ABC News reported Friday, Pruitt's protective detail broke down the apartment building's front door last March to get to Pruitt, who they believed to be in medical danger.

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While the condo lacked some of the amenities of traditional rentals, such as a full kitchen or phone line, $50 per night is an exceedingly good deal for a prime location near the Capitol. This is well below what he would have paid in other comparable, or worse, locations.

There are conflicting reports about Pruitt's use of the apartment space.

Pruitt was permitted to pay rent for just a single bedroom in the upstairs condo unit, even though the other bedrooms in the unit were unoccupied, the source told ABC News.

EPA's press office also did not respond to messages seeking comment Thursday or Friday about Pruitt's Washington living arrangements.

If Pruitt had used the one room in the apartment alone, then the conversation would be a lot more fuzzy.

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When asked for a response to the letter, the EPA told the network, "Administrator Pruitt follows the same security protocol whether he's in his personal or official capacity", but declined to give details on those protocols.

According to reports, Pruitt did not seek an ethics approval before entering into the rental agreement with the Harts. "It was a routine business transaction and permissible even if from a personal friend".

According to the ethics rules, there is a "personal relationship" exception when it comes to government officials accepting gifts.

He continued: "The circumstances must "make it clear" that the gift was motivated exclusively by the personal relationship, and the burden of demonstrating such circumstances is on the employee".

Fugh said she was told Pruitt has since moved to another apartment, though she said she was not privy to any details about where the administrator is now staying, who owns that property or what rate he is paying. There have been reports since January that he was under consideration to replace Jeff Sessions as attorney general, and that Pruitt covets the job. However, proposed restrictions around gifts involving conflicts of interest did not pass. For instance, a two-week stretch of travel in June by Pruitt and his aides cost more than $120,000, according to records obtained by The Post and EIP under the Freedom of Information Act.

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As Shaub wrote, "a cabinet official like Pruitt owes the public an explanation as to his analysis of the relevant factors so we can understand how he arrived at the conclusion that no reasonable person would be concerned if he accepted a gift of below market rate lodging from a lobbyist".

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