Side Note
Protesters at the People’s Climate March walking with a gigantic fake Scott Pruitt.

Protesters at the People’s Climate March walking with a gigantic fake Scott Pruitt.

Scott Pruitt’s EPA is trying to hobble the entity that’s currently investigating Scott Pruitt

In August 2017, the EPA’s Office of Inspector General, whose duties entail making sure the EPA is doing its job and not breaking any laws in the process, opened up an investigation into EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s lavish spending on travel. It would be one of the first red flags of Pruitt’s tenure as the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, which has seen the former energy industry shill pledging to cut environmental regulations in the name of efficiency while using public funds to travel in truly wild style. As the news breaks that Pruitt rented a condo from a lobbyist on the cheap and punished EPA officials who questioned his spending habits while awarding unapproved raises to others, Pruitt’s future at the agency seems in limbo — and if he stays, the Office of Inspector General will be investigating the shit out of him basically forever.

It’s interesting, then, that around the time that the IG was opening its investigation into Pruitt’s travel, that the EPA took steps to slash the budget of its Inspector General — which is, again, the part of the EPA that’s supposed to make sure nobody at the EPA is committing fraud or wasting public funds. In its most recent semiannual report to Congress, which covers incidents that occurred from April to September of last year, the Inspector General’s office noted that the EPA deleted information they’d sent them to justify their request for a $62 million budget during the 2019 fiscal year. The EPA put the information back in when the OIG called them on it, but then went behind their backs and submitted a $42 million budget request on the OIG’s behalf to the White House anyways. If you missed the subtext of what the EPA is trying to do, here, all of this information is laid out in a section of the Inspector General’s report labeled “Interference With Independence.”

The IG’s office appealed to the Office of Management and Budget directly, writing that the $20 million cut “would have significant negative impacts on OIG operations.” The request seems to have fallen on deaf ears: In February of this year, when the White House released its 2019 budget proposal, the Office of Inspector General was allotted an even smaller sum — $37.5 million, a bit more than half of what they originally asked for.