EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt left little to chance in trying to make the agency more friendly to the oil industry after he took office last year, according to new emails revealed in a report by Buzzfeed News.
The Sierra Club obtained the emails through a Freedom of Information Act request and shared them with Buzzfeed, according to the report. The request revealed that Pruitt attended a meeting of the American Petroleum Institute in mid-March last year, and encouraged executives he met there to apply for jobs at the Agency.
The emails show that Kevin Avery, manager of federal government affairs at ConocoPhillips, one of the nation's largest oil producers, wrote to Samantha Dravis, then a top EPA aide, on March 27, 2017: "I understand that Administrator Pruitt met with the API executives last week and he made a plea for candidates to fill some of the regional director positions within the agency," Avery wrote in the email. "One of our employees has expressed interest. He is polishing up his resume. Where does he need to send it?"
A week later, on April 4, Avery emailed Dravis back with the resumes of a ConocoPhillips employee along with a friend one of the company's executives.
The two were Brad Thomas, a ConocoPhillips employee in Alaska who lists his skills on LinkedIn as being "very knowledgeable on a host of EPA regulations and policies" in the region; and Kim Estes, an independent environmental consultant in California who is a personal friend of ConocoPhillips's vice president for state and governmental affairs, John Dabbar. Estes confirmed to Buzzfeed that he was being considered to run the EPA's Region 9 office in San Francisco and heard about the position through Dabbar. He said he did not formally apply or have an interview in person.
The EPA didn't hire either Thomas or Estes, but the emails show the lengths to which Cabinet officials went to encourage top industry lobbyists to go to work for the Trump Administration.
In his campaign for president, one of Donald Trump's rallying cries was to "Drain the Swamp!" of top lobbyists working in government.
Since Pruitt has become administrator, the EPA has tried to roll back vehicle emissions regulations in a move that would require abandoning rising fuel economy standards and has proposed in a leaked memo to rescind California's right to set tighter emissions requirements, including requiring the sale of electric cars.
He has also reduced the number of criminal investigators on the EPA's staff, and is the subject of several ethics investigations tied to taking favors from oil industry lobbyists, and wasteful spending.
In an email response to Buzzfeed News, the EPA said: "We are not aware of that 'recruiting plea' but EPA has sought a diverse range of individuals to serve in the Agency and help advance President Trump's agenda of environmental stewardship and regulatory certainty."
"This is Scott Pruitt trying to outsource the job to protect our air and water to the exact people responsible for polluting them," Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, said in a statement.
Dravis has since resigned from the EPA, along with three other top officials in the midst of the ongoing investigations.