The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) pushed back against claims made by former official David Schnare that Administrator Scott Pruitt never met with senior agency personnel and did something “not permitted under law.”
“Mr. Schnare’s claims are false,” EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman told The Daily Caller News Foundation in response to an op-ed Schnare published on Inside EPA on Tuesday.
“All Schnare saw while he was here was Administrator Pruitt’s first two weeks of nearly exclusive meetings with career senior staff at all the program offices, and regular or at least weekly, meetings with career and political staff on a variety of issues,” Bowman said.
Schnare claimed “Mr. Pruitt chose not to engage closely with the senior career managers,” in his op-ed. He offered more details in a follow-up interview.
“Pruitt had a video conference with the senior folks,” Schnare told TheDCNF. “These were not meetings at which policy matters were briefed and resolved.”
“While I was there, I can identify at least five meetings in which Pruitt was scheduled to be briefed by acting assistant administrators or the acting deputy administrator, but which were taken off his calendar,” Schnare said.
“I understand that after I left there was no one left within his personal circle able to provide the detail on decision issues that I provided,” Schnare said. “At that point he had to increase his contact with senior career folks, but I’m led to understand that he still didn’t trust them. How he dealt with that, I have no idea.”
Bowman not only pushed back against Schnare’s claim Pruitt never met with senior career staff, she also challenged the notion Schnare was ever offered the agency’s number two job or that he has any evidence Pruitt broke the law.
“From my understanding, he was at EPA for about a month following Pruitt’s confirmation,” Bowman said. “He was never being considered for a top spot. His claims are wildly untrue and his references to things like ‘professional ethics’ and ‘sensitive issues’ and ‘actions taken outside the law’ without any specificity, tends to point to a lack of veracity in his claims.”
Schnare was part of the EPA transition team and claims to have been offered the agency’s number two job. He didn’t get it and resigned in April over what he called a “question of integrity.”
Shortly after his resignation, Schnare told TheDCNF he would write about what led to his resignation and offer “eye-opening” details about how Pruitt managed EPA.
In his op-ed, Schnare said his resignation was precipitated by “a meeting in which I gave him notice that a delegated EPA authority was going to be used by a career manager on a sensitive issue, an action required by law.”
“I advised him on the Agency’s options and he rejected them all,” Schnare wrote. “Mr. Pruitt then ordered a different course of action, one I firmly believe is not permitted under law. He left it to me or his chief of staff to direct the career staff to implement the action. In my view, this violated our oaths of office and placed the career staff in an untenable position — one from which I could not extract them, whether I stayed or resigned.”
Schnare said he was frozen out of high-level meetings before resigning. Schnare’s recent op-ed also criticized how Pruitt was handling climate science issues, specifically targeting the administrator’s support for a “red team” exercise.
Schnare fired back at Bowman’s remarks that he was never considered for the number two job at EPA. Recent media reports suggest Pruitt is considering attorney Jeff Holmstead for the assistant administrator position.
An EPA official familiar with the matter said former transition official Doug Benton offered Schnare the top job. Benton had no authority to hire agency officials, but Schnare said his appointment came straight from the White House.
“The Transition Team management who were in charge of the entire transition created the position of assistant deputy administrator specifically for me,” Schnare told TheDCNF.
“The day before I resigned, [a White House official] informed me that all the paperwork on my appointment was completed and was due at EPA any day,” he said.
“Neither Pruitt or his chief of staff had any control over this level of White House appointment. They could veto appointments that required senate approval, but not at the level in which my position sat,” Schnare said.
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