The New York Post: EPA chief Scott Pruitt’s $50-a-night Washington rental called into question

EPA chief Scott Pruitt paid just $50 a night to crash in a condo co-owned by the wife of a lobbyist with clients regulated by his agency — a huge savings over the average price of a hotel room in Washington.

Pruitt paid to rent the room in the two-bedroom condominium unit only on nights when he actually slept there, Bloomberg News reported.

White House officials are freaking out about Pruitt’s living arrangement as well as his foot-dragging before handing over documents about his lease or payments, the news service reported, citing three sources.

According to the website Statista.com, the average price for a room at a D.C. hotel is about $270 — but that includes a medley of lodgings, from low-end one-star properties to luxe, five-star digs.

The questions follow criticism of Pruitt for traveling first class on airline flights and catering to the energy industry and other big businesses during his first year in office.

In all, Pruitt paid $6,100 to use the room for roughly six months, according to copies of the checks reviewed by Bloomberg.

The owner of the condo — just blocks from the Capitol — is a health care lobbyist, Vicki Hart. Her husband, J. Steven Hart, is a lobbyist and his firm represents clients from industries regulated by the EPA.

Key Words: Honesty? Transparency? ‘We don’t even have a coherent strategy to obfuscate’

A person familiar with the lease compared it to an Airbnb-style arrangement, but Pruitt wasn’t a

transient and instead made the apartment his home on nights he was in Washington.

The lease — which was reviewed by Bloomberg — says he was charged $50 a night “based on days of actual occupancy.”

Justina Fugh, ethics counsel at the EPA for a dozen years, said the arrangement wasn’t an ethics issue because Pruitt paid rent.

The disclosure follows revelations about Pruitt’s reliance on first-class flights to travel around the globe and a series of pricey trips, including a visit by Pruitt and agency staff to Italy that cost $120,249.

EPA officials have defended Pruitt’s use of first-class flights on security grounds, but after a series of reports, he shifted to coach.

J. Steven Hart is chairman of Williams & Jensen, a firm with a stable of energy industry clients including Oklahoma Gas & Electric Co., which paid the firm $400,000 in 2017, according to data compiled from the Environmental Integrity Project from disclosure forms.

Pruitt, former attorney general of Oklahoma, has been an enthusiastic crusader against Obama-era regulations meant to combat climate change and limit air pollution.

When Pruitt was in Oklahoma, he sued the EPA more than a dozen times.

“At the very least, it doesn’t look good for the administrator of EPA to have rented an apartment from the wife of an energy industry lobbyist who represents companies regulated by EPA,” said Eric Schaeffer, director of the Environmental Integrity Project.

Fugh, the EPA’s ethics counsel, said no gift was involved even though the arrangement smacks of a sweetheart deal for the EPA boss.

“He paid a fair price for what amounts to just a room,” Fugh said. “So I don’t even think that the fact that the house is owned by a person whose job is to be a lobbyist causes us concern.”

This report previously appeared at NYPost.com.

Key Words: EPA administrator Pruitt says safety concerns and less-than-optimal interactions drive costly travel decisions

Read on: Pruitt’s six-figure spending on first-class flights

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