Deep in 316-Page E.P.A. Doc, Reporter Finds Hint of Unexpected Turn in History

Deep in 316-Page E.P.A. Doc, Reporter Finds Hint of Unexpected Turn in History


I found myself thinking back to that history this past weekend, as my colleague Lisa Friedman and I worked our way through a 316-page document detailing Mr. Pruitt’s daily activities in the first months after he became the E.P.A. administrator, for a story we published on Tuesday.

The New York Times had filed a Freedom of Information request for Mr. Pruitt’s calendar, with no response from the agency. But the nonprofit group American Oversight sued the E.P.A. over its slow response to a similar request it had filed and received a copy, which it provided to The Times.

Lisa covers the E.P.A. for The Times. I write about regulatory policy and lobbying. We spent much of the weekend reading through Mr. Pruitt’s calendar.

Page after page showed Mr. Pruitt holding meetings with lobbyists and top executives from automobile manufacturers; oil industry giants; pork and soybean farmers; coal mining companies; chemical companies; coal-burning electric utilities; conservative media outlets; Republican lawmakers; even Steve Bannon and Ivanka Trump (they had a half-hour each, in successive meetings, on the same day, before Mr. Trump’s decision on the Paris climate agreement).

Mr. Pruitt had traveled to speak to industry groups at resorts in Naples, Fla., and Scottsdale, Ariz., and had fancy meals with industry executives at restaurants like Equinox and BLT Prime, and at the Trump International Hotel in Washington.

But there on Page 180 of the schedule was a detail that to me was perhaps the most fascinating of all: a brief description of a 30-minute meeting Mr. Pruitt had in his office at E.P.A. headquarters with an acquaintance he knew from Oklahoma.

A.J. Ferate, now the vice president of regulatory affairs at the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association, which represents the industry statewide, was penciled in on March 27 at 3:15 p.m.

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How the world had changed.

Few could have predicted back in 2011 that Mr. Pruitt was going to end up as the E.P.A. administrator. (I called Mr. Ferate this week and spoke with him briefly, asking if he himself could have imagined this turn of events. He said he did not want to comment.)

But now, five and a half years later, he had come to Mr. Pruitt’s office to thank him for moving to kill a part of the exact rule they had teamed up, without luck, to try to block in 2011. (Mr. Pruitt has moved to kill the entire methane rule, but, so far, a court has blocked him from doing that.)

It is a small detail, to be sure. But journalism, at its core, is a form of history. This was a reminder once again of how the course of history has changed in this new Trump era.



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