Senators' Letter to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt on Water-Gen Agreement

In this May 3, 2017 letter from Democratic Sens. Tom Carper (Del.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.) to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, the two senators question how EPA has pursued a collaboration with a water technology firm endorsed by GOP donor Sheldon Adelson.

JOHN BAHRASSO. WYOMING. CHAIRMAN

JAMES M. INHOFE. OKLAHOMA THOMAS CARPER. DELAWARE

SHELLEY MOORE CAPITO. WEST YIROINIA BENJAMIN L. CARDIN. MARYLAND

JOHN BOOZMAN. ARKANSAS BERNARD SANDERS. VERMONT

ROGER WICKER. MISSISSIPPI SHELDON WHITEHDUSE. RHODE ISLAND

DEB FISCHER. NEBRASKA JEFF MERKLEY. OREGON l?

.IERRY MORAN. KANSAS KIRSTEN GILLIDRAND. NEW YORK "ltt tatt? Engtt
MIKE ROUNDS. SOUTH DAKOTA CORY A DOOKER. NEW JERSEY

ERNST. IOWA EDWARD J. MARKEY, MASSACHUSETTS

DAN SULLIVAN, ALASKA TAMMY DUCKWORTH, ILLINOIS

RICHARD SHELBY. ALABAMA MARYLAND COMMITTEE ON ENVIRONMENT AND PUBUC WORKS

WASHINGTON. DC 20510?6175
RICHARD M. RUSSELL. A-IAJORIIYSTAFF DIRECTOR
MARY FRANCES REFKO, MINORITY STAFF DIRECTOR

May 3,2018

The Honorable Scott Pruitt
Administrator

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
1200 Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20004

Dear Administrator Pruitt:

We write to request information regarding decision to sign a Cooperative Research and
Development Agreement (CRADA) with Water-Gen, a company whose representatives you met
with in Washington, DC at the request of Sheldon Adelson. Your planned (but cancelled)
February, 2018 trip to Israel appears to have included a public announcement of EPA support for
Water-Gen.

Water-Gen, an Israeli company owned by Russian-Israeli billionaire Mikhael Mirilashvili, claims
to be able to produce potable water out of air, and has been touted by Israeli Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu' and Alan Dershowitz.2 Sheldon Adelson, a longtime donor to Republican
causes in which you been involved, brought this company to your attention in 2017. Mr.
Adelson is the billionaire owner of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation. He has also been a donor
to the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA), an organization you formerly headed.
Las Vegas Sands gave RAGA $1,501,269 during the 2014 election cycle, and $755,000 during
the 2016 election cycle.3

Water-Gen?s American CEO, Ed Russo, has been a consultant to the Trump Organization since
2001 and is the author of a book entitled ?Donald J. Trump: An Environmental Hero.? 4 It is our
understanding that Mr. Russo personally delivered Water-Gem?s system to Cincinnati
office for evaluation. Information received by our of?ces from both current and former EPA
employees reveals that scientific, legal and procedural concerns were raised by a number of
individuals involved in the CRADA award.

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3 During that period
you served in leadership positions at RAGA and its associated 501(c)(4) Rule of Law Defense Fund. Until recently,
Samantha Dravis, former general counsel and policy director for RAGA, served as your senior counsel and
Associate Administrator for Policy at EPA.

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Below is a timeline of events as we understand them:

March 29, 2017: According to public copies of your calendar, you held two meetings with
representatives of Water-Gen, including Maxim Pasik, its executive chairman, at the request of
Sheldon Adelson. We haVe been informed that the company left a prototype of its water
puri?cation system in your of?ce. An EPA of?cial also told our staffs that you said that you
wished to evaluate the technology to determine whether residents living near Superfund sites
whose drinking water might be centaminated5 could be provided with Water-Gen systems in lieu
of bottled water.

May 10, 2017 According to copies of your calendar, you met with representatives of Water-
Gen.

June 13, 2017 Following a meeting at EPA that included Albert ?Kel? Kelly, until recently
your senior advisor, and other individuals in Of?ces of General Counsel and Water,
Of?ce of Research and Development was asked to fund a project to validate Water-Gen?s
system for potential deployment in lieu of bottled water in disaster response or other scenarios
because of your interest in the technology. EPA career staff did not understand what statutory
authority existed for engaging in the validation of what they referred to as a ?glori?ed de-
humidi?er? or ?magic water machine? simply because you were interested in the technology.

June 2017 Ed Russo, the US. CEO of delivered a prototype system to
Cincinnati Research and Development Laboratory7.

September 12, 2017 EPA put out a notice8 seeking non-federal partners for ?a Cooperative
Research and Development Agreement to investigate the potential use of atmospheric water
generators in expanding the availability of water during shortages, contamination events, and
other interruptions of service.? We have been told by current and former EPA staff that this
notice was issued because career staff were uncomfortable using EPA funds to validate a
single company?s technology absent a public selection process, particularly when, by their
estimation, about 70 other similar systems exist on the market.

January 2018: EPA reportedly9 signed10 a CRADA with Water-Gen to evaluate its water
puri?cation system, although the CRADA wasn?t publicly announced until March 2018?. In
addition to validating the technology, EPA career staff were instructed to undertake a
comparison of the costs and operational challenges associated with using Water-Gen?s
technology to those associated with using bottled water during situations when potable drinking
water is not otherwise available.

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February 10, 2018: According to EPA documents obtained by our of?ces, several members of
your Personal Security Detail, including its leader, Nino Perrotta, traveled to Israel in advance of
your planned February 17, 2018 trip to Israel.

February 17-23, 2018: According to a draft itinerary of your trip to Israel obtained by our
of?ces (attached), you and several members of your staff planned to travel there. You were
scheduled to participate in a number of tours and other meetings that do not appear to directly
relate to your job as EPA Administrator, including tours of the Old City of Jerusalem and several
churches in Capernaum, a meeting with an Israeli Supreme Court Justice and tour of Israel?s
Supreme Court, and a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. You were also
scheduled to participate in several meetings and tours that were related to drinking and
wastewater treatment technologies and other environmental matters, including a planned public
announcement of Water-Gen CRADA. The trip was cancelled, despite the fact that your
advance team was already in Israel, due to revelations regarding your exorbitant spending on
travel. '2

So that we can better understand the manner in which EPA decided to fund Water-Gen?s
technology, as well as the role Mr. Adelson or other non-governmental of?cials played in the
CRADA and your planned Israel trip, please provide, by close of business on May 25, 2018, the
following:

1. All documents (including but not limited to emails, correspondence, memos, cost
estimates, receipts for actual incurred expenses, and calendar items) related to your
planned trip to Israel.

2. All documents (including but not limited to emails, correspondence, memos, cost
estimates, receipts for actual incurred expenses, technical assessments or evaluations and
legal analysis) related to Water?Gen CRADA or other efforts to provide funding
or other support to Water-Gen.

Thank you very much for your attention to this important matter. If you or members of your staff
have further questions, please feel free to ask them to contact Michal Freedhoff at the Committee
on Environment and Public Works at (202) 224-8832, or Dan Dudis with Senator Whitehouse?s
staff at 202-224?2921.

Sincerely yours,

Sheldon Whitehouse
Ranking Memb United States Senator

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