Environmentalists and other critics of Scott Pruitt just can’t believe that the EPA leader was offered the chance to drive a car.
Another “scandal” involving Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt has become public. In August 2017, Pruitt was offered a ride in a hydrogen fuel-cell Lexus. Arrangements for the test drive took place before Toyota — the parent company of Lexus — announced it was partnering with the EPA to reform management at the agency.
The discovery is thanks to EPA emails recently obtained by the Sierra Club, an environmental organization, through Freedom of Information Act requests.
To be clear, Pruitt was not offered a vehicle itself, but just the chance to give it a test drive.
“Just today, we took delivery of a brand new Lexus LC500 (the same car we showed him in the parking garage),” wrote Tom Stricker in an email dated Aug. 31, 2017. Stricker, a vice president in Toyota’s product regulatory affairs division, was reaching out to Millan Hupp, one of Pruitt’s former top aides. The email came after Pruitt had visited a Toyota office in Texas, and apparently was impressed with the LC500.
“Is there a good day in the next week or so for the Administrator to go for a lunchtime drive?” Stricker wrote. “He saw one in Texas and seemed excited to take it for a spin.”
Hupp and Stricker ultimately worked out a time for Pruitt and a member of his security team to visit a hydrogen refueling station on New York Avenue in Washington on Nov. 21, 2017. The two vehicles Toyota planned to showcase were a Lexus LC500 and a Toyota Mirai.
However, the scheduled test drive fell through. Pruitt, bogged down with a work conflict, was forced to cancel.
“Something has just come up that needs the Administrator’s immediate attention. Unfortunately, he doesn’t feel that he can leave the office right now. I sincerely apologize for the short notice, but can we postpone to a later date?” an aide wrote to Toyota. “You have been so gracious and we hope to do this very soon.”
Not long after the botched test driving date, Pruitt announced on Dec. 7, 2017 an upcoming partnership with Toyota. The plan was for the car company to help streamline work at the agency by evaluating management practices.
However, the union didn’t last long. Following intense backlash from environmental groups, Toyota called it off just a month later.
To conclude: A simple test drive never even took place and subsequent partnership plans were ultimately scrapped. Such an arrangement does not have the trappings of the next Watergate scandal, but media outlets and critics have nevertheless pounced.
“The revelations add to a growing list of ethics controversies swirling around the embattled EPA boss,” E&E News reported Friday.
“Is there any perk Pruitt wouldn’t accept from the industries the EPA regulates?” said Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group, in a statement to Think Progress.
John Coequyt, the senior director of federal policy for Sierra Club, was much more upset.
“Scott Pruitt is apparently incapable of saying no to corporate lobbyists in any context, whether it is on policies that sell out our health and our future, or on personal perks and experiences he simply must indulge,” he told ABC News in a statement Friday.
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