May 18, 2018

Duckworth, Carper Introduce Bill to Strengthen Oversight of Loophole Scott Pruitt Abused to Reward his Top Aides with Dramatic Salary Increases Over White House Objections


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Following reports that Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt appears to have abused the Safe Drinking Water Act’s (SDWA) special hiring authority to reward his top aides with wasteful salary raises that even the Trump White House would reportedly not approve, Ranking Member of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Subcommittee on Fisheries, Water and Wildlife Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Ranking Member of the Senate EPW Committee Tom Carper (D-DE) introduced legislation to increase transparency associated with Pruitt’s personnel decisions made using SDWA authority. The Duckworth-Carper EPA Special Hiring Authority Transparency Act would require the EPA Administrator to notify Congress within 30 days of any appointment under the SDWA special hiring authority. The EPA would be required to disclose the appointee’s name, title, salary and a detailed written justification explaining why the Administrator determined the appointment was necessary to carry out the requirements of the SDWA.

“EPA Administrator Pruitt’s abuse of the Safe Drinking Water Act to go around the White House to hand out lavish raises to his friends is one of the latest in a long string of scandals that underscore his complete lack of respect for Congressional oversight and ethical standards. I take my constitutional oversight duties as a Member of Congress seriously, which is why I’ve introduced legislation to help end abuses of the SDWA’s special hiring authority by making sure the actions of EPA Administrator Pruitt and any future EPA Administrator are transparent and automatically reported to Congress,” said Senator Duckworth.

“The special hiring authority granted in the Safe Drinking Water Act is designed to give the EPA administrator flexibility to bring in outside experts and professional staff to advance EPA’s core mission of protecting our environment and safeguarding public health,” said Senator Carper. “Scott Pruitt decided to abuse this hiring authority to evade proper channels and provide ridiculous pay raises for two of his favored staffers – totaling nearly double the annual income of the average American family. Although Congress for years has counted on EPA Administrators – Republican and Democrat – to use this authority responsibly, Mr. Pruitt violated this trust. Our bill will ensure Mr. Pruitt and future EPA Administrators exercise this special authority ethically, transparently and within the spirit of the law.”

The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) protects public drinking water supplies. Under SDWA, the EPA sets rules for drinking water quality and implements various programs to ensure utilities across the country are able to comply with our federal drinking water standards. The law also provides the Administrator of EPA with the authority to appoint up to 30 people without regard to civil service laws. Administrator Pruitt violated the trust Congress conferred on him when he abused the authority to reward his top aides with dramatic pay raises.