EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt met with an Indiana coal executive last year who was seeking to soften a pollution rule — and who once boasted about raising more than a million dollars for President Donald Trump’s campaign, according to documents provided to POLITICO.
The records, obtained by the Sierra Club through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against EPA, show that Steven Chancellor, CEO of White Stallion Energy, met with Pruitt on May 22, 2017 for a “courtesy call and introductory meeting."
Pruitt has met regularly with GOP heavyweights ahead of what many expect to be a 2020 Senate run. He has also met with investors connected to Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson as well as key conservative groups like the Family Research Council and Federalist Society.
Chancellor is also the head of the American Patriot Group, whose corporate headquarters in Evansville were designed to mimic the White House, and which owns White Stallion Energy, which mines coal from five sites in the Illinois Basin.
He hosted a $10,000-per-couple fundraiser with Donald Trump, Mike Pence and Rudy Giuliani in August 2016 that he said raised "north of a million" dollars. He later attended Trump's inauguration, where he was spotted shaking Pence’s hand.
A longtime powerhouse GOP fundraiser in the Hoosier State, Chancellor in the 2000 campaign hosted an event headlined by George H.W. Bush. And he and his company, Black Beauty Coal, which was later sold to Peabody Energy, directly gave a combined $310,000 to Republicans, The Washington Post reported at the time. Chancellor then served Bush's Energy Department transition team. He also raised more than $1 million for Mitt Romney in 2012.
Chancellor petitioned the EPA in December 2016, asking the agency to soften a rule designed to curb pollution that floats across state lines. An update to the rule approved by the Obama administration could "significantly impact" Indiana utilities’ reliance on coal produced from his mines, Chancellor wrote. EPA has not yet responded to Chancellor’s petition or any of those regarding the update, the agency confirmed.
Also in the meeting was Rashid Hallaway, a former aide to Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh who went on to work directly for Chancellor and now represents him as an outside lobbyist. His client list also includes the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity.
It is unclear whether Pruitt and Chancellor discussed his petition. Calls to Chancellor’s office were not returned, and EPA did not return a request for comment.
In addition to the Pruitt meeting, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's calendar showed a meeting with White Stallion earlier that day, although it is not clear that Chancellor personally attended that meeting.
But Zinke named Chancellor earlier this month to Interior's new International Wildlife Conservation Council, which will provide advice to Zinke on "the benefits that result from United States citizens traveling to foreign nations to engage in hunting." That council is scheduled to meet at the Interior Department on Friday.
Chancellor is a prolific big-game hunter, and his mansion includes a trophy room stuffed with taxidermied lions, elephants, polar bears, rhinos and zebras, according to photos posted on a 2012 blog. In 2001, he mustered his political connections to lobby the government of Botswana to lift a ban on lion hunting.
Interior earlier this month said hunters will be allowed to bring back elephant trophies from abroad.
The documents provided to POLITICO also showed that Pruitt met with dozens of industry executives and trade group representatives between the May 19 and June 19 period the calendar covered. And he had phone calls with GOP governors, attorneys general and lawmakers. He saw public health groups twice.
Pruitt also heard a pitch from executives of the water treatment technology company Reliable One Resources, which appears to have arranged a meeting through a former lawyer for Devon Energy Corp., the oil-and-gas company Pruitt had close ties to in his political career in Oklahoma.
EPA has fought routine requests for Pruitt’s schedules, turning them over only when forced by the courts after lawsuits brought by environmental or government transparency organizations. EPA posts a far less comprehensive version of his calendar online every few weeks, omitting names and discussion topics. The new releases keep lunch and travel details confidential, a practice the Pruitt EPA has long followed.
The schedule released by EPA also did not reveal Pruitt's activities while representing the U.S. at a major international meeting in Italy, a trip that drew criticism because of its high travel costs and his policy of flying first class or business class.
Pruitt and his staff spent $36,000 on a military jet to New York to catch a plane to Rome following a last-minute invite to an infrastructure event in Cincinnati with President Donald Trump. Pruitt racked up another $7,000 in flight costs associated with the trip, including a business class ticket on the premium Emirates Airline.
The agency redacted information about meetings or events for two days of the trip and left another day's entries blank. The calendars offer no explanation for why Pruitt arrived several days early for the meeting of G-7 environment ministers. He spent the first part of his trip in Rome and departed Bologna shortly after the meeting there began to return to Washington to attend a much-publicized meeting at the White House where Cabinet secretaries praisedTrump.
Pruitt’s public schedule listed only a meeting with the U.S. Embassy and then a business roundtable on his first afternoon in Italy.
According to Pruitt’s Twitter account, he kept a busy schedule in Italy before and during the G-7 gathering — including meeting with executives from U.S. companies; touring the Vatican and meeting with a top church official; discussing "rule of law" with Luciano Panzani, the president of the Court of Appeal in Rome; attending a "prosciutto and pasta" reception; meeting with Therese Coffey, a Conservative Party member of the U.K. parliament; speaking about air quality and baseball with Japanese Environment Minister Koichi Yamamoto; and meeting on stewardship with UPS, Sealed Air, CITI and the U.S. Chamber.
On the same Monday he met Chancellor, Pruitt spoke with the Large Public Power Council’s CEO meeting about “the elimination of regulations affecting the electric power industry,” with Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good about coal ash, and with the Congressional Coal Caucus.
The calendar also shows Pruitt visiting Oklahoma twice in the month disclosed.
On Saturday, May 20, in Tulsa he took an hourlong tour of Brainerd Chemical Company and then a half-hour tour of the restored office of oil baron Waite Phillips, which Brainerd’s CEO leases.