Speed Reads


Scott Pruitt was apparently pretty open about his scheming at the EPA

The embattled chief of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, reportedly gave energy executives a wink at a closed-door meeting just a month after taking his position last year, The New York Times reports, telling them: "Whoever said you can't have your cake and eat it too, doesn't know what to do with cake." The comment, which segued into a discussion of his efforts to walk back the Clean Power Plan, which reduces emissions from coal-fired plants, was made at one of dozens of Pruitt's secretive, selective appearances before "friendly" audiences as the EPA has struggled to keep information about Pruitt's travel and meetings out of the public eye — and out of headlines.

Pruitt's staff, for example, apparently sorts potential audiences into categories of "friendly" and "unfriendly," documents retrieved from the agency by a Sierra Club Freedom of Information lawsuit reveal. "He didn't want anybody to question anything," said Kevin Chmielewski, the former EPA deputy chief of staff.

One memo, for example, noted that the National Association of Homebuilders' top executive "will moderate Q&A on industry issues set forth in advance and possibly from the audience — who are all industry-friendly and supportive of Mr. Pruitt and his efforts." The EPA's efforts also often extended to avoiding the press, holding meetings in private, and issuing announcements about events only after they'd already concluded. In another instance, the vice president for government affairs at Toyota Motor North America wrote to the EPA, "We just received an inquiry from a CBS News reporter in Dallas about [Pruitt's visit to a Texas auto plant]. We won't reply until the visit is over."

The Times notes that such measures are unprecedented, and were not taken by EPA administrators under former Presidents Barack Obama or George W. Bush. Read Matthew Walther on Scott Pruitt's cartoon villainy here at The Week.