EPA chief Scott Pruitt's rental of condo from energy lobbyist's wife under scrutiny

Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt is facing questions about his housing arrangement after he reportedly rented a residence partially owned by the wife of an energy lobbyist.

ABC News first reported that Pruitt, who has already been the subject of a controversy relating to his travel expenses, lived in the condo in Washington D.C., for six months in 2017 when he first arrived in the capital. On Friday ABC reported that his adult daughter used a second room in the condo.

Bloomberg News reported that Pruitt paid $6,100 over six months -- $50 a night for the nights he slept there -- in what a source told the outlet was consistent with an Airbnb-style arrangement. 

The condo is co-owned by Vicki Hart, whose husband, J. Steven Hart, is chairman of a firm that lobbies for environmental and energy clients. The Associated Press reported that his firm's clients include Exxon Mobil and Cheniere Energy.

While ethics rules normally prohibit employees in the executive branch from receiving gifts, the EPA denied that it was, in fact, an example of a gift.

“As EPA career ethics officials stated in a memo, Administrator Pruitt’s housing arrangement for both himself and family was not a gift and the lease was consistent with federal ethics regulations,” an EPA spokesman told Fox News.

Hart told The AP that Pruitt is a casual friend, and that they have had no contact with himt for months, except for a brief exchange at the National Prayer Breakfast last month.

"Pruitt signed a market-based, short-term lease for a condo owned partially by my wife," Hart said, according to a statement. "Pruitt paid all rent owed as agreed to in the lease. My wife does not, and has not ever, lobbied the EPA on any matters."

Pruitt has been a strong proponent of rolling back a number of EPA regulations and has slashed some regulations opposed by  industry, angering environmentalist groups.

"Scott Pruitt, who is supposed to protect our families from pollution, literally lived in a fossil fuel lobbyist's house," Michael Brune, the executive director of the Sierra Club, told The AP. "The administrator of the EPA should stand up to corporate polluters, not live in their homes while pushing their agenda at every turn."

"Scott Pruitt, who is supposed to protect our families from pollution, literally lived in a fossil fuel lobbyist's house."

- Michael Brune, the executive director of the Sierra Club

The controversy is the latest to hit Pruitt, who is under scrutiny over his travel practices. The House Oversight Committee is investigating, with The Wall Street Journal reporting that his international trips and a number of chartered and military flights mean his travel costs have exceeded $150,000.

Pruitt has said he needed to occupy first-class seating due to security concerns.

The controversies could place Pruitt under more scrutiny from President Donald Trump, who this week replaced Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin.

Shulkin had been under fire over a trip to Europe. According to an internal watchdog, he improperly accepted tennis tickets, and his then-chief of staff doctored emails to justify his wife traveling to Europe with him at taxpayer expense.

Fox News’ Jennifer Bowman, Matt Richardson and The Associated Press contributed to this report

 

 

Adam Shaw is a Politics Reporter and occasional Opinion writer for FoxNews.com. He can be reached here or on Twitter: @AdamShawNY.