A cache of internal Environmental Protection Agency communications shows that the embattled agency administrator Scott Pruitt isn’t the only one who has been in frequent contact with the industries that the environmental agency is supposed to regulate. Samantha Dravis, who was the EPA’s senior counsel and director of its Office of Policy until she resigned last month, had more than 90 scheduled meetings with representatives of energy and manufacturing companies, trade associations, agricultural interests, car makers, and other industry groups between March of 2017 and January of this year, according to emails that were made public as a result of a lawsuit filed by the Sierra Club. During that time, those same documents show Dravis having only one scheduled meeting with a representative of an environmental or public health organization.
Some of the regulated groups that sought meetings were the beneficiaries of relaxed EPA regulations. After a court ruled in April 2017 that operators of large animal farming facilities must report how much animal waste they release, several agricultural industry groups met with the EPA. If it had been implemented, the decision would have not only cost the industry millions of dollars, but it also would have put a spotlight on the serious health and environmental impact of waste from factory farms — and big ag was worried. Representatives of the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association, National Pork Producers Council, United Egg Producers, National Turkey Federation, American Farm Bureau Federation, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Milk Producers Federation, and National Council of Farmer Cooperatives sought a meeting with Dravis to express their concerns. According to the emails, they got the meeting on July 11 at the EPA’s headquarters in Washington.
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Within three months, the agricultural organizations’ concerns were addressed. Although the court didn’t change its opinion, the EPA came up with a way for the industry to bypass the requirements it had imposed. In the past, the agency had insisted that animal waste must be reported. And an EPA inspector general’s report from September 2017 emphasized the urgency of documenting how much air pollution was coming out of industrial animal farms. But interim guidelines the EPA released on October 26 showed an about-face. The new policy would exempt the animal farms from reporting requirements. “EPA is working diligently to address undue regulatory burden on American farmers,” said Pruitt at