Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, worked directly with a top energy lobbyist and without a real estate agent to build a $ 50 per night rental fee in a prime Capitol Hill building Washington, a source familiar with the arrangement told ABC News.
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Pruitt was allowed to pay rent for only a single bedroom in the upper apartment unit, although the other bedrooms in the unit were vacant, the source said ABC News.
Overall, Pruitt paid $ 6,1
The EPA allowed Bloomberg News to verify copies of canceled checks that Pruitt had paid the owner of the apartment for the use of the room for about six months. The news agency reported that the checks show different amounts paid on sporadic dates – not a traditional monthly "rental payment" of the same amount each month.
EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox did not respond to calls or emails from ABC News.
"I think it certainly creates a perceptual problem, especially if Mr. Hart tried to influence the agency," said Bryson Morgan, an investigative officer in the US House of Representatives' House of Representatives.
Rules against inappropriate gifts do not just apply to items that are made available free of charge, Morgan said. There are other considerations when reviewing the agreement, including the terms of the agreement.
"It's not just when he pays market rent," Morgan said. "A short-term lease is expensive, does it have the ability to end it every day, is this an arrangement that could put another person on the open market, and my assumption is that this situation does not include the characteristics of a particular market transaction?" he said in an interview conducted prior to the announcement of the controls.
The new revelation comes as Democrats in Congress demand that Pruitt reveal more details about his use of the 2017 Capitol Hill House.
U.S. Representative Don Beyer, a Democrat from Virginia, urged Pruitt to "immediately clarify the terms of his housing contract" and "publish all correspondence" with the veteran lobbyist whose wife is the townhouse.
Hart is the chairman of the lobbying firm Williams and Jensen, which lobbies on EPA policies such as the Clean Air Act, according to their website. The company also engaged in issues related to liquefied natural gas exports and represented Cheniere Energy Inc., which at the time had the only active liquefied natural gas export facility in the United States.
Pruitt traveled to Morocco last December, and the EPA said in a press release that liquefied natural gas exports a discussion topic during this trip.
Last year, Cheniere Energy Inc. announced that it was paying $ 80,000 to Harts company.
Hart's company specifically advocated "LNG Export, LNG Export and Exports" issues. The company also mentions on its website that it relies on other EPA guidelines, such as the Clean Air Act.
The EPA did not respond to ABC News & # 39; questions as to whether Harts lobby company had any involvement in organizing meetings during the trip from Pruitt to Morocco.
Cheniere Energy spokeswoman Rachel Carmichel told ABC News that the company ended her relationship with Harts company in December 2017. The spokeswoman said Cheniere was unaware of the relationship between Pruitt and the lobbyist and had not used Harts company to hold talks with the EPA.
Another Hart & # 39; s lobbying firm, Norfolk Southern, issued $ 160,000 last year for Congressional lobbying on "issues affecting coal consumption, oil production and transportation, including EPA regulation. "
Norfolk Southern also declined to comment when ABC news reached.
The Non-Profit Watchdog Group's leader, the Environmental Integrity Project, and former EPA Civil Defense Director Eric Shaffer called on the EPO's General Inspector and Congress to address the issue.
"Is that why Pruitt traveled to Morocco to stimulate natural gas exports, which is not really an EPA problem?" Scheffer wrote in a statement.
The office of the EPO Inspector General is familiar with the report, according to spokesman Jeff Lagda.
The Inspector General of the Agency is already considering the cost of Pruit's travel and whether the Agency has followed all due process.