Scott Pruitt is beginning to fill out a leadership staff at the EPA as the agency prepares to advance a likely controversial agenda.
The Environmental Protection Agency is currently operating with a small cadre of officials at the helm, but new administrator Pruitt is angling to bring aboard more top-level personnel soon, EPA staff, a range of former officials and a Republican attorney said.
Pruitt has so far tapped at least two officials to fill influential slots that don’t require Senate confirmation. But more appointees that don’t require confirmation, such as the chiefs of the Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs and the Office of Public Affairs, will help move agency priorities forward, those former EPA officials said.
The congressional office chief would help navigate the looming budget process, while the latter slot will help shape the agency’s message and image, the officials said.
Filling the Top Rung
Samantha Dravis, a top Republican legal operative, is now head of the Office of Policy. Ryan Jackson, a long-time staffer for Republican stalwart Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), has taken over as the agency’s chief of staff, an EPA spokeswoman told Bloomberg BNA.
Dravis worked for the Republican Attorneys General Association and its affiliated Rule of Law Defense Fund. Pruitt, formerly Oklahoma’s attorney general, is a former chairman of both organizations. Both groups fought the Obama EPA over its controversial Clean Power Plan.
The policy office—where new policy is crafted—often spearheads agency priorities, former EPA officials said. Unlike other offices, it does not have to follow statutory mandates for rulemaking.
“It seems there is a very close and small group of people in the office of the administrator making decisions, which would not be unusual as the cadre of political appointees gets up to critical mass,” Matt Fritz, chief of staff to President Barack Obama’s final EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, told Bloomberg BNA. “My sense, based on past practice, is the White House has identified personnel to fill these slots and will want to run it by the administrator. And I think this pace is probably not much different from previous administrations.”
The transition team, led by White House adviser Don Benton, is also continuing to play a pivotal role in crafting policy, transition team spokesman Doug Ericksen told Bloomberg BNA.