EPA reportedly approved pipeline project linked to lobbyist renting room to Pruitt
The Environmental Protection Agency approved a pipeline project last year during the same time period that administrator Scott Pruitt was renting a room from the wife of a lobbyist who represented the pipeline’s owner, The New York Times reported on Monday.
The news comes amid a growing controversy surrounding Pruitt’s unusual housing arrangement, in which he paid $50 a night to rent a room in a luxury condo from Vicki Hart, whose husband runs Williams & Jensen, a well-known energy lobbying firm.
The rental agreement, which was open-ended, offered a rate that was well-below market value.
At the same time that Pruitt had access to the condo, the EPA signaled its approval for a pipeline project from Enbridge Inc. The Canada-based company hoped to expand its Alberta Clipper pipeline and ship hundreds of thousands of barrels of additional oil to the U.S. each day.
Williams & Jensen was a registered lobbyist for Enbridge at the time, the Times reported. However, a spokesman from the firm told the newspaper that Williams & Jensen did not lobby the EPA or Pruitt on the project’s behalf.
Liz Bowman, Pruitt’s spokeswoman, also told the Times that “any attempt to draw that link is patently false.”
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The State Department granted the permit last October. Since then, Enbridge has expanded the pipeline.
Critics say the $6,100 Pruitt paid for his rental over six months amounted to a sweetheart deal. Rates for a one-bedroom apartment in D.C. are typically thousands of dollars higher per month and often require a contract for a set amount of time, whether the occupant sleeps there or not.
On Monday, several House Democrats sent Pruitt a letter asking him to detail the arrangement surrounding the rental.
The EPA’s senior ethics counsel, Justina Fugh, said last Friday the agreement did not qualify as a “prohibited gift at all,” and described the deal as “a routine business transaction and permissible even if from a personal friend.”
But the coverage of Pruitt’s close personal and financial ties to a lobbyist was just the latest in a string of negative press for the EPA chief. On Monday, it was reported that the EPA considered leasing a private jet for Pruitt’s travels. A story in Politico also noted that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly has already considered firing the administrator
- This article originally appeared on HuffPost.