Scott Pruitt, E.P.A. Chief, Rented Residence From Wife of Energy Lobbyist

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Walter M. Shaub Jr., who until last July was the director of the Office of Government Ethics, pointed out that federal ethics guidelines say that “employees should consider declining gifts when they believe that their integrity or impartiality would be questioned if they were to accept the gift.”

According to the E.P.A., the landlord of the building was Vicki Hart, the president and founder of a health care lobbying firm that does not have business before the agency.

Her husband, J. Steven Hart, is the chairman of a Washington lobbying firm, Williams & Jensen, with several energy clients including OGE Energy Corporation, Cheniere Energy and Colonial Pipeline.

According to lobbying disclosure records, Mr. Hart’s firm reported lobbying the E.P.A. on behalf of OGE Energy, an energy company based in Oklahoma, on greenhouse gas regulations and other rules affecting electric utilities. The forms were previously reported by E&E News.

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Mr. Pruitt paid $6,100 over six months to the wife of a top energy lobbyist for a bedroom in a Capitol Hill condominium.

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Alex Wong/Getty Images

Mr. Hart did not respond to a request for comment.

E&E News reported that Mr. Hart said that he had not personally lobbied the E.P.A. in the past two years and was unaware that his firm had done so, and that a federal disclosure form listing him as having lobbied the E.P.A. on behalf of a glass-container manufacturer was an error that he would ask to have corrected.

Democrats in Congress were quick to criticize the agency chief. “From the very beginning, Scott Pruitt has acted as if the E.P.A. is his own personal fiefdom,” Representative John Sarbanes, Democrat of Maryland, who sits on the House committee that oversees the agency, said in a statement.

Mr. Pruitt’s relationships with both Mr. Hart and OGE Energy go back several years. In 2014, Mr. Hart held a fund-raising event for Mr. Pruitt while Mr. Pruitt was the attorney general of Oklahoma. The Washington Post quoted Mr. Hart on Friday saying that he was a “casual friend” of Mr. Pruitt’s and hadn’t had contact with him “for many months.”

As Oklahoma attorney general, Mr. Pruitt joined with one of OGE Energy’s subsidiaries, Oklahoma Gas & Electric, to sue the Obama administration over a regional haze rule that would have required coal-fired power plants to install pollution controls. Mr. Pruitt eventually lost his case, which went all the way to the Supreme Court.

In March 2017, Mr. Pruitt met with OGE Energy as well as a lobbyist in Mr. Hart’s firm, according to a copy of his daily schedule that was released last year. Also last year, the E.P.A. asked a federal court to delay the haze rule requirements for Texas. A federal court later denied the request.

Brian Alford, a spokesman for OGE Energy, said the company was previously unaware of Mr. Pruitt’s rental agreement.

Mr. Hart’s firm through the end of 2017 also represented Cheniere Energy, lobbying on issues “related to the export of liquefied natural gas (LNG), approval of LNG exports and export facilities,” according to a disclosure report.

Mr. Pruitt traveled to Morocco last year to promote the export of natural gas. That trip is the subject of an investigation by the E.P.A.’s inspector general, based on requests from Senate Democrats.

In a statement, Rachel Carmichael, a spokeswoman for Cheniere Energy, noted that the company had not been aware of Mr. Pruitt’s rental arrangement and had not used Mr. Hart’s company to lobby the E.P.A.

Jeffrey Lagda, the E.P.A. inspector general, said his office had been made aware of Mr. Pruitt’s living arrangement and declined to say whether the office was considering an investigation.

On Friday, ABC News reported that Mr. Pruitt’s daughter had also lived in the apartment, while she held an internship at the White House last summer. In its statement, the E.P.A. said, “The lease authorized use by the administrator and his immediate family, specifically including his spouse and children, and consistent with that provision of the lease his immediate family did stay there when they were in Washington, DC.”

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