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Scott Pruitt’s top aide wanted to use special authority to hire a former Obama administration official to scrutinize climate science.
The EPA administrator's chief of staff, Ryan Jackson, suggested last year that Steven Koonin, a theoretical physicist and an Obama Energy Department appointee, could quickly get on EPA's payroll. Pruitt and his staff have drawn criticism for using special authority to expedite the hires of political appointees, and EPA's internal watchdog has launched a probe into the matter.
Pruitt - Team - Koonin - Red-team - Climate
Pruitt's team was planning to hire Koonin to convene a military-style "red-team" climate exercise aimed at questioning prevailing climate science.
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"Steve, the Administrator remains very excited about conducting this exercise," Jackson told Koonin in a May 2017 email. "He had bounced this and other ideas off others he has worked with for some time and others in the Administration. We would like to proceed further with the red-blue exercise."
Jackson - Way - Paperwork - Position - Hiring
Jackson added, "We have determined that the best way to process your paperwork is to compensate you as an 'administratively determined' position which is unique in the federal hiring process to EPA. There is no vetting other than OPM paperwork which allows us to have you on the payroll in short order."
The emails were recently released to the Sierra Club under a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.
Jackson - EPA - Provision - Safe - Drinking
It appears as though Jackson was referring to EPA's special hiring provision offered by the Safe Drinking Water Act. That allows the EPA administrator to bring in up to 30 employees, known as "administratively determined" hires who can circumvent some of the bureaucracy involved in getting government jobs. Past administrations have used the authority, too.
Pruitt's use of the authority attracted widespread attention after The Atlantic reported in April that two aides close to Pruitt got substantial raises...
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