White House asked Pruitt not to eat lunch at West Wing mess hall so often: report

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Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt used the White House mess hall so often that Cabinet members were warned not to treat the exclusive restaurant as their personal dining hall.

Politico reported Thursday that Pruitt’s frequent use of the restaurant prompted the warning during a Cabinet meeting last year, adding that there were only a few tables available in the Navy-run restaurant open to White House officials and Cabinet members.

Image: Andrew Harnik, AP Photo

A source close to Pruitt told the news outlet that the message for the EPA chief at the meeting was clear: “We love having Mr. Pruitt, but it’s not meant for everyday use.”

More from The Hill

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Pruitt and Aides Rack Up $90,000 in Taxpayer-Funded Travel in June Alone

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U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt has spent tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars on first or business class flights while his aides generally fly coach, according to the Washington Post. Pruitt has also used military jets to travel back and forth to events.

During a two-week stretch in June—around the same time President Trump announced that the U.S. is withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement—the EPA boss and his top aides racked up at least $90,000 in taxpayer-funded travel to help tout Trump’s agenda, the newspaper reported, citing EPA receipts obtained by the Environmental Integrity Project through Freedom of Information Act requests.

One of Pruitt’s short domestic trips from Washington, DC to New York was booked first class for $1,600—six times the amount spent on the two media aides who came along and sat in coach. Another $36,000 was spent on a military flight from Cincinnati to New York.

Previous EPA administrators usually refrained from such premium bookings. The Hill pointed out that federal regulations call for government travelers to “consider the least expensive class of travel that meets their needs” but can use first class for security or medical reasons.

More from EcoWatch

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EPA to replace half of science advisors, critics fear industry takeover

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Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt has dismissed half of the EPA’s key scientific review board members. Some fear the Trump administration is “inserting politics into science” and will favor industries the agency is meant to regulate.

Pruitt is facing a backlash over his decision to not reappoint nine members of the 18-member Board of Scientific Counselors (BOSC) – a panel which  reviews research done by EPA scientists within the Office of Research and Development (ORD).

According to JP Freire, a spokesman for the EPA, Pruitt is considering replacing the academic scientists with representatives from the very industries the EPA regulates.

The administrator believes we should have people on this board who understand the impact of regulations on the regulated community,” Freire told the New York Times. “We want to expand the pool of applicants to as broad a range as possible, to include universities that aren’t typically represented and issues that aren’t typically represented.

Four other members who have already served their maximum two terms have also left, opening the way for Pruitt to fill 13 of the board’s 18 total seats. The scientists who ended their first term at the agency were recently assured they would be able to stay for another term.

Robert Richardson, one of the members of BOSC whose renewal was denied, told Science Magazine that the cuts “just came out of nowhere.

I’ve never heard of any circumstance where someone didn’t serve two consecutive terms,” Richardson told the Washington Post, adding that the dismissals gave him “great concern that objective science is being marginalized in this administration.”

Today, I was Trumped. I have had the pleasure of serving on the EPA Board of Scientific Counselors, and my appointment was terminated today.

Gretchen Goldman, research director at the Center for Science and Democracy, said the EPA’s decision is “inserting politics into science.

The EPA is treating this scientific advisory board like its members are political appointees when these committees are not political positions. The individuals on these boards are appointed based on scientific expertise not politics,” Goldman said, according to CNN.

Members of the BOSC are selected based on scientific merit, according to a 2013 solicitation for committee members. Nominees are evaluated based on “scientific and/or technical expertise, knowledge, and experience” as well as an absence of financial conflicts of interest.

The dismissals follow HR 1431, a bill passed by the House in March, which alters membership requirements for the EPA’s other major advisory board, the Science Advisory Board (SAB).

The bill’s sponsor, Congressman Frank Lucas (R-Oklahoma), Vice Chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, wrote an op-ed for the Daily Caller about the bill, which he said was meant to “implement safeguards and shed light on the scientific review process behind many federal regulations.

In rural America, EPA had become a four letter word,” Lucas wrote. “Many of my constituents were constantly worried about potential fines or the overwhelming cost of complying with prospective regulations.

House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) said the agency needs to be restructured in order to remove “clear” conflicts of interests from scientists who “receive millions of dollars in grants from the federal government,” he said in an interview with the Washington Post.

However, many scientists who served on the advisory boards say the restructuring will create further conflicts of interest within the agency.

Joseph Arvai, who served on the EPA’s Chartered Science Advisory Board wrote an op-ed for the Huffington Post, in which he said the bill was only written to “give business and industry greater influence over EPA rulemaking.”

President Donald Trump has proposed making major cuts to the EPA ever since he took office. The EPA has scrubbed several pages from their website and some environmental regulations put in place under former President Barack Obama have been overturned by the Republican-controlled Congress.

From RT

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Trump Proposes $54 Billion Defense Spending Hike

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Image: CNN via CBS Philly

President Donald Trump proposed a $54 billion increase in defense spending Thursday as promised, a plan that the White House says will provide the necessary funding to ramp up the fight against ISIS, improve troop readiness and build new ships and planes.

Released as part of Trump’s $1.1 trillion budget outline for 2018, the 10% boost to the military comes at the expense of deep cuts to non-defense spending at the State Department, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Environmental Protection Agency and dozens of other federal programs.

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Leaked memo reveals Trump’s plan to smash the EPA

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The EPA is getting an “absolute hammering” from the Trump administration. That’s how new news site Axios described it Monday morning, and the news has just gotten worse since then.

A leaked copy of the Trump team’s plan for the EPA calls for slashing its budget, “terminating climate programs,” ending auto fuel-economy standards, and executing “major reforms of the agency’s use of science and economics.”

The Trump administration has frozen EPA’s grants and contracts, cutting off funding for everything from cleanup of toxic sites to testing of air quality.

EPA employees have been ordered not to share information via social media, press releases, or new website content, Huffington Post reports.

It’s unclear which of these changes are temporary — just in place until Trump’s nominee to head the EPA, Scott Pruitt, gets confirmed — and which might be put in place more permanently.

More bad news for the EPA will be coming: A new team that Trump has put in place to shift the agency’s direction includes three former researchers from Koch-funded think tanks, one former mining lobbyist, and a number of people who have argued against climate action, according to Reuters. And Trump is poised to issue executive orders to weaken pollution rules and cut agency budgets, Vox reports.

By Grist Staff

Posted by The NON-Conformist

EPA refuses to finalize study blaming fracking for water pollution

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Image: Reuters

The US Environmental Protection Agency has dropped its plans to further investigate whether or not fracking led to the contamination of a Wyoming aquifer, and the agency no longer plans to write a report on the matter.

The EPA in 2011 released a draft report, which revealed that hydraulic fracturing fluids used at a shale gas drilling site had likely contaminated groundwater in Pavillion, Wyoming. Oil and gas companies have long argued that fracking poses no water contamination risks, but the EPA’s results demonstrated otherwise.

Critics of the findings, including Wyoming state officials and drilling advocates, argued that the EPA conducted a poor and inaccurate study, which could ultimately harm the industry. Despite the initial wave of criticism in 2011, EPA officials planned to resume the study and continue making assessments regarding the influence of fracking on groundwater. But the EPA on Thursday abandoned those plans, announcing that state officials will instead take over the investigation into Pavillion’s water pollution and draw up a conclusion in 2014.

More from Russia Today

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