Thursday, 26 April, 2018

$43000 soundproof booth for EPA chief Pruitt violated law -US GAO

Mayors EPA move to roll back vehicle emissions standards threatens Utahns’ health air quality improvements Traffic on State Street in Salt Lake City Wednesday
Sammy Stanley | 17 April, 2018, 03:46

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency violated the law when installing a soundproof booth in his office, according to the top federal auditor. EPA did not send any advance notice to the appropriations committees in either chamber, the Government Accountability Office found, thereby violating the 2017 law. "Accordingly, section 710 [of the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act] applied to this obligation and EPA was required to notify the appropriations committees of its proposed obligation", Thomas Armstong, the GAO's General Counsel wrote in a letter to Democratic lawmakers on Monday. Because EPA used its appropriations in a manner specifically prohibited by law, EPA violated the Antideficiency Act.

EPA argued Pruitt's phone booth "serves a functional purpose" by allowing the administrator to carry out agency business and compared it to other office supplies, like high-speed copiers or computers.

"EPA's statements place the privacy booth squarely within the meaning of "furnish", as the booth equipped the office with something that EPA asserts it needed". In its report, the GAO explicitly said it drew "no conclusions" about whether or not the privacy booth was necessary for secure communications. The lawmaker cited "new information" his committee had obtained regarding Pruitt's official travel and his housing rental agreement past year with the wife of an energy lobbyist.

They also inquired about a lease for a bedroom in a Capitol Hill condominium that Pruitt rented in 2017.

EPA representatives said they were cooperating with the request.

US to impose more sanctions on Russia
But Johnson stressed the "overwhelming purpose" of the mission was a response to a series of chemical attacks in recent years. Emmanuel Macron, the French president, was expected to strike a similar tone in a TV interview planned for last night.

Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) said he's "concerned" about the ongoing reports that Pruitt spent too much taxpayer money on first-class travel and his security detail, and has doubts whether Pruitt's explanation is "credible".

"An illegal privacy booth to conduct secret discussions with his polluter friends does nothing to help our health or environment", Udall said Monday.

Republicans also criticized Pruitt after the latest round of ethical violations.

"It is critical that EPA and all federal agencies comply with notification requirements to Congress before spending taxpayer dollars", he said. "EPA must give a full public accounting of this expenditure and explain why the agency thinks it was complying with the law", Barrasso said.

In a letter earlier last week, Gowdy said EPA has failed to hand over several documents related to Pruitt's travel spending that the committee requested in February.

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