kccu

Jennifer Ludden

Bob Fitzgerald lives on the edge of a flat field that's just a few feet above sea level. It's the same spot on Maryland's Eastern Shore where his ancestors settled before the U.S. became a country.

"The land grant came into the family in 1666," he says.

When he was a child his parents grew tomatoes, cucumbers and string beans. Now nearing 80, Fitzgerald plants corn and soybeans to supply local chicken farms.

Updated at 2:54 p.m. ET

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt faced withering criticism from congressional Democrats on Thursday, with one lawmaker calling him "unfit to hold public office." But Republican members of Congress — especially those representing states with large fossil fuel industries — rallied to Pruitt's defense.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt testifies on Capitol Hill tomorrow, and it could be a make-or-break appearance. It'll be his first time in front of lawmakers since a string of allegations of ethical misconduct.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

As allegations mount of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt violating ethics policies and misusing taxpayer money, President Trump has repeatedly defended him. "Scott is doing a great job!" he said in one tweet.

Pruitt is one of the administration's most high profile members, and is often lauded as one of its most effective.

"Administrator Pruitt has fearlessly executed President Trump's regulatory reform agenda, there's no doubt about that," says Thomas Pyle, president of the American Energy Alliance.

President Trump made coal jobs a core of his presidential campaign, repeatedly vowing to bring back "beautiful" coal despite the industry's decades-long decline. And in pockets of the U.S. during Trump's first year in office, it may well have felt like a turnaround was underway.

A review of data from the Mine Safety and Health Administration shows 1,001 more U.S. coal jobs last year compared with 2016, although energy analysts say the reasons are short term and have nothing to do with White House policies.

Pages