Pruitt Superfund Plan Leaves No Fingerprints
Task Force Viewed No Material, Produced No Notes or Draft Recommendations
Washington, DC — U.S. Environmental Protection Administrator Scott Pruitt claims his Superfund Task Force developed a detailed plan to revamp the program without any preliminary or briefing paperwork, according to correspondence posted today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Thus over approximately one month, this Task Force produced a set of 42 recommendations with no identifiable antecedent or a single supporting document.
On May 22nd, Pruitt announced that he was taking personal control over all major future and ongoing Superfund projects and appointed a task force headed by Albert Kelly, a disbarred Oklahoma banker and long-time Pruitt campaign supporter. PEER submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request seeking basic information about this effort, such as: Who was on this task force? How were they picked? What materials did they look at and how did this group arrive at decisions?
By late August, the agency failed to produce any of the requested material and PEER filed a FOIA lawsuit in federal district court to compel production. In a November 8th email, Assistant U.S. Attorney Johnny Walker representing EPA in the lawsuit provided PEER with the following information:
- The 107 “Task force members were all volunteers from EPA staff with no selection criteria”;
- “Meeting minutes were not kept and materials (other than the May 22, 2017 memorandum) were not presented to the Superfund Task Force”; and
- There is no “work product emanating from this task force” except for the final recommendations issued on June 21st.
“Pruitt’s plan for cleaning up toxic sites was apparently immaculately conceived, without the usual trappings of human parentage,” remarked PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting Walker indicated that EPA would look for additional records but in the ensuing weeks found none. “It stretches credulity that 107 EPA staff members with no agenda or reference materials somehow wrote an intricate plan in 30 days.”
Emails from Pruitt’s time as Oklahoma Attorney General obtained through a public records lawsuit document his penchant for coordinating with industry, incorporating corporate “white papers,” and even using industry language in his petitions and legal filings. As EPA Administrator, Pruitt has continued this pattern of taking direction from industries that his agency is supposed to regulate.
“Given the Pruitt playbook, it is not surprising that his Task Force recommendations focus on maximizing real estate value and ignore public health concerns,” added Ruch. “A suspicious mind would say this report was written by industry and simply passed off to Pruitt’s people who merely added the EPA logo.”