DeGette Demands Answers on Hart’s EPA Lobbying
Denver - Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Ranking Member Diana DeGette (D-CO) joined fellow Democratic leaders on the Energy and Commerce Committee in sending a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt today raising a series of questions following reports that a lobbyist, whose wife rented a $50-a-night condo to Pruitt, attempted to influence appointments to the agency’s Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) on behalf of his clients. The reports directly contradict Pruitt’s earlier claims that the lobbyist, Mr. J. Steven Hart, did not have business before EPA.
The letter was signed by Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Environment Subcommittee Ranking Member Paul Tonko (D-NY) and full committee Vice Ranking Member Kathy Castor (D-FL).
“Despite your earlier claims that J. Steven Hart had no clients with business before EPA, it is now clear that Mr. Hart did represent clients with business before your agency and, in fact, lobbied you on their behalf,” DeGette and the committee Democrats wrote.
“One particularly problematic document, attached to this letter, shows that the same Smithfield executive who accompanied J. Steven Hart to a meeting with you apparently nominated three individuals to fill spots on the EPA’s Science Advisory Board,” the legislators continued. “This document also indicates that J. Steven Hart lobbied the EPA in favor of those nominations. The document is heavily redacted, including the names of the three individuals, but the effort to place those individuals on the SAB is clear.”
In their letter, they also expressed concern over EPA’s ongoing efforts to remove academic scientists from the SAB in favor of industry representatives.
“Since last year, we have been deeply concerned about your efforts to remove academic scientists from the SAB in favor of industry representatives. You unjustly removed or failed to renew 21 scientists who received EPA grants, later saying that the move was motivated by ‘an appearance of a lack of independence.’ Although you pledged to provide the Committee with examples of scientists with such an appearance of a lack of independence, you never did,” the Democrats wrote.
The committee Democrats are requesting answers to the following questions included in the letter by May 10th:
- Provide the names of the three individuals recommended for inclusion on the SAB by Smithfield and J. Steven Hart, and clarify whether they have been included on the SAB or are currently being considered for inclusion.
- Provide the long overdue response to our November letter on the SAB.
- Provide the overdue response to our April 2nd letter on your lease with J. Steven Hart and Vicki Hart.
The letter is available here.