Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt, who is embroiled in multiple investigations into his ethics and spending, apparently made a "plea" to executives at the American Petroleum Institute last year to submit candidates for open EPA positions, BuzzFeed News reports. Pruitt's eyebrow-raising call came just a month after he started leading the agency, with the manager of federal government affairs at the oil company ConocoPhillips writing to an EPA aide in March 2017: "I understand that Administrator Pruitt met with the API executives last week and he made a plea for candidates to fill some of the regional director positions within the agency. One of our employees has expressed interest. He is polishing up his resume. Where does he need to send it?"
The emails were obtained as part of the Sierra Club's Freedom of Information Act request, and they also show that the ConocoPhillips manager, Kevin Avery, eventually emailed the EPA back "offering the resumes of an interested ConocoPhillips employee, as well as an oil industry veteran and personal friend of one of the company's executives," BuzzFeed News writes.
None of these candidates ultimately landed at the EPA, although the Sierra Club's executive director, Michael Brune, expressed outrage that there was ever the possibility in the first place. "This is Scott Pruitt trying to outsource the job to protect our air and water to the exact people responsible for polluting them," he said.
Kim Estes, who was one of the people whose resumes was passed along by Avery, justified his inclusion by arguing that the administration was "looking outside the box."
"I am not in the box at all," Estes, who offers consultations on environmental health and emergency concerns through the Estes Group LLC, told BuzzFeed News. "I'm somebody different. I'm not a Washington, D.C., insider."