A lawsuit filed by the Sierra Club under the Freedom of Information Act has resulted in the release of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) emails that detail numerous meetings between former EPA senior counsel Samantha Dravis and the organizations she was supposed to regulate.
Between March 2017 and January of this year, Dravis attended more than 90 scheduled meetings with officials and representatives from agricultural interests, auto makers, energy and manufacturing companies, trade associations, and other industry groups she was tasked with regulating.
In the same time-span she scheduled only one meeting with a representative from an environmental or public health organization.
While it is normal for those working in the EPA’s Office of Policy to meet with both industry representatives as well as environmental and health groups, it is not normal for those meetings to be so one-sided.
Dravis was supposed to meet with John Walke, director of the Climate and Clean Air program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, on December 11, but reportedly cancelled that meeting as well as two other subsequent meetings.
“What’s not at all typical is the fact that it’s so one-sided. This is simply industry trying to get access to decision makers at as high a level as possible.” — George Wyeth, former EPA policy office employee from 1998 to 2014
Many of the officials who met with Dravis and or Pruitt later became employees of the EPA, including Bill Wehrum, who was appointed to a top regulatory position within the agency only six months after requesting a meeting with Pruitt.
Wehrum wished to discuss “the enormous impact” that new emissions standards for hazardous pollutants were having on the brick manufacturing industry, of which Wehrum was then acting as a legal representative.
Although Pruitt himself was unable to meet with Wehrum and his associates, they did manage to meet with Dravis for thirty minutes.
As we know, Wehrum was appointed to the EPA six months later, and now oversees the very same office in charge of the very same regulations that he had wished to discuss.
“This is very disturbing – yet another example of the Trump Administration hiring industry lobbyists to run EPA and weaken pollution control regulations from inside the agency, regardless of the harm to human health. It’s supposed to be the EPA — not the IPA, Industry Protection Agency.” — Tom Pelton, spokesman for the Environmental Integrity Project
Wehrum, however, is not an exception.
According to a list compiled by ProPublica, there are no less than 12 former lobbyists at the EPA, all conveniently assigned to the offices in charge of the industries they once lobbied for.
An additional scandal was also revealed by the Sierra Club lawsuit; that of an alleged dinner-date last summer at the Vatican between Pruitt and Australian Cardinal George Pell, who has been accused of sexual assault.
Spokespeople for the agency have attempted to deescalate the situation by claiming that the encounter was not a private one-on-one, but rather a group event that included 12-15 individuals.
They also claim that Pruitt was unaware that Pell would attend, and was ignorant of the charges against him.
The lawsuit revealed Pruitt’s schedule for the evening, which was labeled, “Dinner with Card. Pell and others,” and mentions later that it would be his 76th birthday the next day.
Furthermore, an internal email obtained by the Times shows Dravis saying, “I am at dinner with Cardinal Pell and Mr. Pruitt.”
Pell has since been ordered by an Australian magistrate to stand trial on sexual abuse charges stemming from multiple individuals going back decades.
Iron Triangle Press will continue to follow this story.
For more insight into the many scandals plaguing the EPA, click here.