Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt used a provision in the Safe Drinking Water Act in order to give two of his favorite aides pay raises that had been rejected by the White House, The Atlantic reports.
Pruitt had sought pay increases of $56,765 and $28,130 for aides Sarah Greenwalt and Millan Hupp respectively; both women had also worked for him when he was serving as attorney general in Oklahoma. Such an upgrade (which would have brought Greenwalt's annual salary to $164,200 and Hupp's to $114,590) requires White House approval, though, because the women are political appointees. The White House refused to approve the raises.
Pruitt then utilized a provision of the Safe Drinking Water Act, which "allows the EPA administrator to hire up to 30 people into the agency, without White House or congressional approval," The Atlantic reports, adding: "By reappointing Greenwalt and Hupp under this authority, [Pruitt's team] learned, Pruitt could exercise total control over their contracts and grant the raises on his own."
The Safe Drinking Water Act isn't exactly an obscure provision; it was used by the EPA under former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, too. "But of the half-dozen former top EPA staffers interviewed for this article," The Atlantic goes on to say, "not one could comprehend using it as a means of increasing salaries — especially following a rejection from the White House."
Pruitt is already in hot water, and circumventing the White House's authority isn't likely to put him back in anyone's good graces. Pruitt has been scrutinized for his rampant use of taxpayer dollars to fly first class. It was also recently reported that he is living in the house of the wife of a top energy lobbyist on Capitol Hill for just $50 a night, raising questions about whether the situation constitutes an "improper gift." Read more about the EPA aides' pay raises at The Atlantic.