Even Miami's Republicans Want EPA's Pruitt Fired for Energy Lobbyist Scandal

Even Miami's Republicans Want EPA's Pruitt Fired for Energy Lobbyist Scandal
Gage Skidmore / Flickr
click to enlarge GAGE SKIDMORE / FLICKR
Gage Skidmore / Flickr
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Scott Pruitt for years has been a known shill for energy-industry polluters. But he might have finally committed an act so brazenly corrupt he loses his job: It turns out Pruitt was spending only $50 per day to live in a prime-location D.C. townhouse owned by the family of an ultrapowerful oil-and-utility-industry lobbyist.

The lobbying firm in question, as New Times reported last week, has accepted $1 million from Florida Power & Light and its parent company, NextEra Energy. Now the story has yet another Miami tie: Multiple South Florida Republicans in D.C. are turning on Pruitt and demanding his resignation. Both longtime Miami Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and her junior colleague, Carlos Curbelo, are asking Pruitt to step down. The two GOP reps have been vocal about their distaste for him since the U.S. Senate confirmed him last year. (Florida's junior senator, Marco Rubio, however, voted in favor of giving Pruitt the job.)

Ros-Lehtinen tweeted yesterday that the EPA needs a new chief:
Curbelo, who might well lose his reelection bid this year after he voted to gut Obamacare and cut taxes for the rich in 2017, also tweeted that Pruitt should resign:
It's worth noting that Ros-Lehtinen and Curbelo at least acknowledge that human-caused climate change is real and problematic — something Pruitt has refused to acknowledge at nearly every turn. That fact likely has something to do with how quickly the two jumped to demand Pruitt's ouster. Both legislators criticized him in March 2017 after he said on CNBC that he was unsure whether carbon dioxide emissions were contributing to climate change.

Of course, their political responses have largely been weak and ineffectual: Ros-Lehtinen responded to Pruitt's 2017 comments by simply calling them "disconcerting and troubling." Curbelo called them "reckless." Pruitt then pretty much skated by without much media coverage for most of last year, at least compared to other Trump cabinet members.

Still, it's a testament to the reality of climate change that two of Miami's most powerful sitting Republicans are forced to admit they believe in the science. Compared to Curbelo's statements, Ros-Lehtinen's comments yesterday were likely far sincerer, because she's retiring at the end of her term and probably no longer feels the need to score points with her voting base.

Curbelo, however, is fighting for his life in a blue-leaning district after he pissed off scores of voters by supporting the GOP's attempts to roll back Obamacare and cut taxes for the rich in 2017 while failing to fight for the tens of thousands of Dreamers in South Florida.

But the ordeal this week shows the brazenness of Pruitt's corruption: According to ABC News, which broke the story, the family that runs one of the most powerful energy-and-oil-lobbying firms in America let Pruitt and his daughter rent out the family's luxury D.C. townhouse for pennies on the dollar. While Pruitt was living in that townhouse, his agency approved a natural gas pipeline project pushed for by the very lobbying firm in question, Williams & Jensen.

As multiple Trump cabinet members have learned in the past 12 months (see: Tom Price), a certain level of graft might eventually cost them their jobs.
KEEP MIAMI NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.