Was EPA’s chief Scott Pruitt pushed by American LNG companies to visit Morocco ?

A Democrat is questioning EPA’s chief recent trip to Morocco. In a letter sent to the agency, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse points at Scott Pruitt’s meetings with LNG exporters days before visiting the Kingdom.

Administrator Pruitt receiving a tour of the IRESEN Green Energy Park in Morocco./Ph. EPA
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Scott Pruitt’s controversial visit to Morocco as head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is still making headlines in the United States. After the Republican has been criticized for his exaggerated expenses, a Senate Democrat is now questioning the reasons behind his December trip to the Kingdom after taking a look at the agency’s calendars.

Sheldon Whitehouse, serving as junior United States Senator from Rhode Island since 2007, is keeping an eye on Pruitt’s suspicious activities. «Recent disclosure raise new questions about this trip, and potential future international trips, given your close ties to the oil gas industry», wrote the senator in a letter he sent to the EPA’s president, revealed Wednesday The Hill, a Washington-based political newspaper and website.

A visit with pro-LNG purposes

Whitehouse referred in his letter to Scott’s unexplained four-day work visit to the Kingdom. It all started when the Republican decided to fly for Morocco to hold talks with his Moroccan counterparts, trying to allegedly promote the importing of natural gas, a mission that contradicts the utility of the agency he is heading.

Indeed, once in the North African kingdom Pruitt met with Minister of Energy, Mines and Sustainable Development Aziz Rabbah, said Le Desk December in an article dedicated to the topic. Alongside four of his officials the EPA chief held talks with Justice Minister Mohamed Aujjar, and Secretary of State to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Mounia Boucetta.

EPA's chief Scott Pruitt with Energy minister Aziz Rabbah during a visit to Morocco in December 2017./Ph. EPAEPA's chief Scott Pruitt with Energy minister Aziz Rabbah during a visit to Morocco in December 2017./Ph. EPA

Moreover, Scott Pruitt went on a tour to the IRESEN Green Energy Park, an international tests, research and training platform located in the green town of Benguerir (50 km north of Marrakech), to have an idea about how Morocco wants to expand domestic solar energy production. Not very far from Benguerir, Pruitt was also listed «as a participant in the 6th edition of the International Atlantic Dialogues Conference organized by OCP Policy Center in Marrakech», reported Le Desk.

Having arrived in the United States of America on Wednesday, 13th of December, Pruitt stated that the trip «allowed us to directly convey our priorities and best practices with Moroccan leaders».

«We are committed to working closely with countries like Morocco to enhance environmental stewardship around the world».

Promoting American LNG exports terminals

However, meetings he held in Morocco and the United States did not really reflect the above-mentioned statement. Whitehouse has hinted at that in his letter relayed by the Hill. He explained that Pruitt’s trip was mainly organized to «tout American LNG exports terminals» in a country that is working on developing its resources in this field.

Whitehouse pointed out that Pruitt and just days before going on this infamous trip to Morocco «met with numerous representatives of associations and companies with interests in LNG exports», said the same source.

EPA's chief Scott Pruitt with Mounia Boucetta State Secretary for the Moroccan Foreign Ministry during a visit to Morocco in December 2017./Ph. EPAEPA's chief Scott Pruitt with Mounia Boucetta State Secretary for the Moroccan Foreign Ministry during a visit to Morocco in December 2017./Ph. EPA

He has even held talks, two days before the visit, with representatives from Kinder Morgan, one of the largest energy infrastructure company in North America specialized in owning and controlling oil, pipelines and terminals.

«If these were the individuals who advised you about your trip before you departed, it would suggest the purpose had little to do with EPA’s mission and more to do with interests from your time in Oklahoma», wrote Whitehouse in the same letter he submitted on Tuesday.

Pruitt's pro-LNG policies

Was Pruitt really pushed by these LNG companies to promote an American product he is not supposed to back as head of an agency created for the purpose of protecting human health and the environment ?

In fact, Whitehouse was referring to Pruitt's dark history with oil and his pro-LNG policies. Before being nominated by President Donald Trump to head EPA starting from February 17, 2017, Pruitt criticized environmental regulations opposing the agency’s activist agenda as an Attorney General in Oklahoma in 2010.

During campaigns in Oklahoma he reportedly received, according to New York Times, contributions from the fossil fuel industry. He has also sued the agency he is now heading 14 times.

Recently the Republican's transparency has been challenged. On Tuesday, it turned out that Pruitt received a deal on rent «for a room in a condo owned by an energy lobbyist», said CNN Thursday. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders reacted to that saying that Donald Trump is not «OK» with that.

«We are reviewing the situation. When we have had the chance to have done a deeper dive on that we will let you know the outcomes of that. We are currently revising that at that White House», Sanders told CNN.

Now the EPA’s Office of Inspector General is looking into all of Pruitt’s official trips in 2017, including the one he made to Morocco.

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