Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt luxuriated in a coal baron’s pricey courtside basketball seats last year as he and President Donald Trump have sought to dismantle a system of environmental regulations that coal companies oppose, The New York Times reported.
The seats at the University of Kentucky game in Lexington last December are reserved for donors who contribute a minimum of $1 million to the school. Billionaire coal company executive Joseph W. Craft III donated $10 million to the university. Craft and his wife also contributed some $2 million to Trump’s campaign, the Times reported.
An EPA spokesman said Pruitt paid $130 for each of two tickets, attending the game with his son. But he reportedly paid cash, so there’s no record of his payment.
The coal billionaire visited Pruitt at least seven times during the EPA chief’s first 14 months in office, more than Pruitt met with any representative of an environmental organization, according to the Times.
Since Trump took office, he and Pruitt have moved to repeal the Clean Power Act to curb greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. Pruitt also postponed enforcing a rule that’s supposed to bar coal-powered plants from polluting rivers.
Trump is considering ordering power grids across the nation to purchase electricity from struggling coal and nuclear plants to subsidize their existence as a “national security” measure, Bloomberg reported.
Pruitt’s strong ties to Craft represent one more issue in a mountain of ethical questions about the EPA chief, who’s the target of at least a dozen investigations. He has come under fire for record spending — on himself — at the EPA, including $3,200 on special pens and personal journals, $3.5 million on security last year, a $43,000 soundproof phone booth for his office, and a $120,000 trip to Italy.