U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, who’s in charge of rolling back protection of America’s water, air, and climate, is so worried about his personal safety that he has tripled his security detail—taking agents off their work investigating environmental crimes—and installed a unique “soundproof communications booth” in his office at a cost of US$25,000.
According to a sales rep involved in installing Pruitt’s cone of silence, the installed model cost far more than conventional booths meant to conduct hearing tests. “They had a lot of modifications,” Steve Snider told the Washington Post. “Their main goal was that they wanted essentially a secure phone booth that couldn’t be breached from a data point of view, or from someone standing outside eavesdropping.” The outlet notes the EPA already had such a secure communications booth, but not in Pruitt’s own office.
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“Pruitt also has shied away from using email at EPA,” the Post reports, “often preferring to deliver instructions verbally and hold face-to-face meetings.” The paper speculates Pruitt does so to avoid a repeat of the discovery of his close working ties to the oil and gas industry, after access to information requests produced copies of his earlier emails as Oklahoma attorney general.
Those close ties continue, according to the Post. “Scott Pruitt has met regularly with corporate executives from the automobile, mining, and fossil fuel industries—in several instances shortly before making decisions favourable to those interest groups,” the paper reports, citing a copy of his schedule it obtained. “There were, by comparison, only two environmental groups and one public health group on the schedule [for] April through early September.”
The New York Times similarly reports that Pruitt “has gone to unusual lengths to operate in secrecy at the EPA, where employees report he is often accompanied by armed guards even inside the agency, and avoids making important calls in his office.”
In addition to seeking to roll back regulations covering everything from stream protection to methane released by oil and gas companies, Pruitt has been the administration’s cheerleader for withdrawal from the Paris climate accord. He questions the consensus that human carbon emissions are warming the climate, and has sought to staff his agency’s science advisory positions with individuals recommended by the denialist Heartland Institute.