Carper, Duckworth Introduce Bill to Strengthen EPA Oversight and Promote Transparency

Legislation would close loophole Scott Pruitt abused to secretly reward top aides with wasteful salary increases

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senators Tom Carper (D-Del.), top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW), and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) reintroduced legislation to increase transparency associated with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hiring and prevent any future administrator from being able to give their favorite aides large salary increases without disclosing it to the American people. The EPA Special Hiring Authority Transparency Act would require the administrator to notify Congress within 30 days of any appointment under the Safe Drinking Water Act (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. 

“Among the many scandals that defined Scott Pruitt’s tenure at EPA were his efforts to evade proper channels so he could provide ridiculous pay raises to favored staff,” said Senator Carper. “Mr. Pruitt set a dangerous precedent by abusing a provision designed to help EPA bring in outside experts to advance the agency’s mission of protecting public health and environmental quality. As both the agency and the American people recover from Mr. Pruitt’s repeated violations of public trust, this bill will help to ensure that future EPA administrators – regardless of party – use this special hiring authority responsibly and transparently.”

“Congress gave EPA the authority to appoint experts under the Safe Drinking Water Act because access to clean drinking water is critical to all Americans, but the Trump Administration has abused this authority far too many times. This bill will help restore the public’s trust in the EPA and encourage government transparency and accountability,” said Senator Duckworth, top Democrat on the Senate Subcommittee on Fisheries, Water and Wildlife. “I look forward to working with Senator Carper to pass this bill and prevent any future EPA Administrator from following Scott Pruitt’s playbook and abusing this loophole.” 

The Senators first introduced this legislation in May 2018, after reports that former administrator Scott Pruitt violated the trust Congress conferred on him when he abused the Safe Drinking Water Act’s (SDWA) special hiring authority to secretly reward his top aides with dramatic salary raises over White House objections. Pruitt also used the SDWA provision to hire ex-lobbyists, including Nancy Beck, a former executive at the American Chemistry Council. In August of last year, Acting Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler agreed to work with Duckworth on this legislation at an EPW Committee Hearing.

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 with the authority to appoint up to 30 people without regard to civil service laws.