EPA chief Scott Pruitt used obscure loophole to give cronies massive raises over White House objections: report
Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt speaking at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt used an obscure provision in the Safe Drinking Water Act give massive raises to two of his top aides, according to a new report in The Atlantic.

According to The Atlantic, Pruitt overrode Trump administration objections this year to boost aide Sarah Greenwalt's pay from $107,435 to $164,200, and aide Millan Hupp's pay from $86,460 to $114,590. Both women have worked with Pruitt for years, dating back to his tenure as Oklahoma's attorney general.

Even though the White House denied Pruitt's request to give the two aides raises, he found a way around this by getting creative by citing a provision in the 1996 Safe Drinking Water Act that lets him bypass the traditional process for hiring appointees.

"A provision of the Safe Drinking Water Act allows the EPA administrator to hire up to 30 people into the agency, without White House or congressional approval," the Atlantic writes. "After the White House rejected their request, Pruitt’s team studied the particulars of the Safe Drinking Water provision, according to the source with direct knowledge of these events. By reappointing Greenwalt and Hupp under this authority, they learned, Pruitt could exercise total control over their contracts and grant the raises on his own."

Pruitt has come under fire in recent days after it was revealed that he rented a room in a pricey Washington DC condo owned by the wife of an oil lobbyist for just $50 a night.