On Tuesday, The New York Times reported that President Donald Trump’s EPA secretary, Scott Pruitt, had “almost no meetings with environmental groups or consumer or public health advocates.” This in the same report that acknowledged Pruitt personally met with representatives from quite a few such organizations.
“The truth is: EPA has met with over 25 consumer protection, public health and environmental groups,” EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox told PJ Media in a statement Tuesday. “Additionally, Administrator Pruitt has been praised by the Galveston Bay Foundation and Texas Health and Environment Alliance for his work on cleaning up toxic Superfund sites.”
Indeed, community activists praised Pruitt for coming in person and pledging to clean up the Dioxin dump known as the San Jacinto River Waste Pits in the area of Houston affected by Hurricane Harvey. “He said he would expedite the decision,” Scott Jones of the Galveston Bay Foundation told Fox 26. “We think that’s great. EPA staff has already said removal is the right course.”
“As long as the waste pits stay in the river, our residents won’t feel safe,” Jackie Young, leader of the Texas Health and Environment Alliance, told Fox 26. “Administrator Pruitt made it clear, he understands that.”
In addition to his statement, Wilcox also provided a list of all the environmental, consumer protection, and public health groups the EPA has met with. Here is the list:
The Nature Conservancy. Audubon Society. American Lung Association. American Public Health Association. American Academy of Pediatrics. March of Dimes. Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments. Physicians for Social Responsibility. Trust for America’s Health. National Medical Association. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. National Environmental Health Association. NYU School of Medicine. National Association of Environmental Medicine. National Association of County and City Health Officials. Health Care Without Harm. Healthy Air Campaign. Indiana NAACP. East Chicago Community Action Group. Twin City Ministerial Alliance. First Baptist Church East Chicago. Interfaith Federation. Association of Clean Water Administrators. Texas Health and Environment Coalition. Galveston Bay Foundation. Environmental Council of the States. Western Governors Association, including Democratic Governors Steve Bullock (Mont.), Kate Brown (Ore.), David Ige (Hawaii), and John Hickenlooper (Colo.).
The Times report attacked Pruitt for meeting with rural voters, conservative nonprofit organizations, and energy and other companies. The report insinuated that the EPA head barely ever met with environmental or public health organizations, but it explicitly stated that he had “almost no meetings” with them.
“Since taking office in February, Mr. Trump’s E.P.A. chief has held back-to-back meetings, briefing sessions and speaking engagements almost daily with top corporate executives and lobbyists from all the major economic sectors that he regulates — and almost no meetings with environmental groups or consumer protection or public health advocates, according to a 320-page accounting of his daily schedule from February through May,” Times reporters Eric Lipton and Lisa Friedman reported.
Lipton and Friedman wrote this, despite the fact that the very list they linked to explicitly mentioned many such groups, including the Association of Clean Water Administrators, the American Lung Association, Dr. Alan Woolf of the Boston Children’s Hospital Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit, and others. These are meetings Pruitt personally attended, included on the very list the Times cited to say he had “almost no meetings.”
Indeed, the Times report even mentioned meetings with the American Academy of Pediatrics, the conservation group Trout Unlimited, and other groups.
These admissions were craftily buried in the story, with Lipton and Friedman spending more time attacking Pruitt for meeting with businesses, flying home to Oklahoma, meeting with the Family Research Council, and attending a Heritage Foundation summit at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Perhaps Pruitt has spent more money than necessary on travel, but Obama’s former EPA director, Gina McCarthy, said one of her greatest regrets was her inability to connect with rural Americans on Obama’s environmental policy.
“We tried to change the outreach and messaging in rural America in a number of ways, but … has it changed the rhetoric that people hear?” McCarthy asked in a January interview with Reuters. “It hasn’t,” she admitted.
“We couldn’t get it, but I wish we had,” McCarthy said.
Pruitt’s aggressive travel schedule and meetings with a wide variety of businesses seems a plausible response to the former Obama EPA head’s regrets. Donald Trump came to the presidency by promising to help rural Americans and to jumpstart the economy after companies had struggled to meet Obama’s stringent EPA rules.
Indeed, an EPA statement to the Times said as much. “As E.P.A. has been the poster child for regulatory overreach, the agency is now meeting with those ignored by the Obama administration,” the agency said in a statement. This more than anything explains any slant in Pruitt’s schedule toward companies that felt unfairly targeted by Obama’s policies.
Also buried in the Times story was another crucial admission: a year’s worth of McCarthy’s calendar records showed a similar “partisan bent” and quite a few meetings with businesses. “She also met with industry players, like the American Gas Association, the National Pork Producers Council and Edison Electric Institute, the utility lobby,” Lipton and Friedman reported.
McCarthy also “held a disproportionate number of meetings with Democratic lawmakers and environmental groups.”
The Times did emphasize one crucial difference between Pruitt and McCarthy, however. “The documents show Ms. McCarthy apparently spent much more time meeting with E.P.A. professional staff and other federal government officials than Mr. Pruitt,” the report noted.
Recent reports of Obama administration political appointees “burrowing” into permanent government positions seemed to confirm the idea of a “deep state” in firm opposition to President Trump’s agenda. The EPA in particular seemed at war with itself at the beginning of the Trump administration, and this internal antagonism would explain a great deal of Pruitt’s hesitancy to meet with administration staff as much as McCarthy did.
Proportionately, it stands to reason that Trump’s EPA chief spends more of his time with conservative organizations and business leaders, and less time with administration staff and liberal nonprofits. Even so, Pruitt has clearly met with a great deal of environmental and public protection groups.
Even if Lipton and Friedman are right that Pruitt met with environmental and public protection groups more rarely than any other kind of organization (in his mere eight months in office so far), their statement that he met with “almost none” of them remains a gross mischaracterization of his schedule.
Wilcox told PJ Media he sent the Times the same list of organizations that appears above. How Lipton and Friedman considered these 25 groups “almost none” is anyone’s guess — but it certainly isn’t accurate reporting.