As agencies go, the EPA was always a lightning rod.
And by and large, demonized during the Obama administration, especially in West Virginia.
That venom was a result of plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions, the alleged war on coal.
Two women, Lisa P. Jackson and Gina McCarthy, served as directors of the Environmental Protection Agency then. It’s true they never visited West Virginia despite repeated invitations. They probably never felt exactly welcome or safe.
But they both faced more than their share of enraged protesters elsewhere and many not so veiled threats. Yet, they both flew coach and were afforded only a small security presence, and none on vacations or while at home.
That stands in stark contrast to the current EPA director, Scott Pruitt, who demanded armed security on his first day on the job. And a year later, not just armed security, but a 20-man, around-the-clock detail, and flying first-class on commercial airliners.
In letters to Democratic senators this week, those details and others emerged, including that Pruitt himself initiated this small army and it did not come in response to any stepped-up threats.
Democrats on a Senate committee wrote in a letter in early April that after reviewing 16 purported threats against Pruitt, they all fell under activities protected by the First Amendment.
They include public protests, social media criticism of Pruitt’s policies and other activities.
Pruitt has said his use of first-class airfare was initiated following some unpleasant interactions with fellow travelers, including someone who yelled a profanity at him in an airport.
The Associated Press, in a nationwide search found no case where anyone was arrested or charged with making violent threats against Pruitt.
A Feb. 14 assessment from EPA’s Office of Homeland Security Intelligence concluded, “EPA Intelligence has not identified any specific, credible, direct threat to the EPA administrator.”
Needless to say, Pruitt’s paranoia has come at a high cost to taxpayers. As of March, it totaled about $3 million on security measures.
No one would deny that Pruitt has probably made some political enemies and received hate mail.
But we don’t suspect the criticism directed at him is any worse than what was directed at his Obama predecessors..
Certainly not rising to the need for a $43,000 sound-proof phone booth; $5,800 to install biometric locks on his office door, and a $3,000 sweep of his office for surveillance bugs.
Or seeking a bullet-proof desk and an SUV that can run with flat tires caused by gunfire.
Guess it’s easy spending $3 million on security with lightning speed, when it’s not your money.