EPA chief under fire for favorable condo rental linked to Enbridge lobbyist

EPA chief Scott Pruitt testifies before a House committee.
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt testifies before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on December 7, 2017.
Pete Marovich | Getty Images

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt is under fire for renting a Washington, D.C., condo at favorable rates from the wife of a lobbyist whose powerful firm represents clients involved with multiple matters the EPA regulates.

A new report in the New York Times found that one of the clients — Canada's Enbridge Energy — got the EPA's blessing at the same time Pruitt was renting a condo for $50 a night from Vicki Hart, who's married to J. Steven Hart, the chair of lobbying firm Williams and Jensen.

The Times' story comes amid growing concern in the White House over the ethics of Pruitt's living arrangements, first reported by Bloomberg last week. The $50-per-night rate — reportedly paid only when Pruitt slept in the condo — is a fairly cheap charge for housing in the area.

The EPA and lobbying firm both say there isn't any connection between the condo rental and the EPA's approval of the pipeline project, but government ethics experts told the Times such an arrangement can appear as a conflict of interest.

Pruitt's EPA has been fraught with controversy including widespread deregulation, climate change denial and alleged censorship of scientists.

The pipeline project the EPA approved last year is called the Alberta Clipper, which carries crude from the oil sands in Alberta, Canada.

Enbridge is also hoping to build a new pipeline across Minnesota to replace its aging Line 3. The company awaits a decision from the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission regarding whether it can move forward on its proposed Line 3 replacement project.

Such pipeline projects have become a point of opposition for environmentalists who say it's time for the U.S. to move away from oil and toward renewable energy sources.

Enbridge and proponents of the project say greater pipeline capacity is necessary, citing continued demand for oil.

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