Together with a small group of political appointees, many with backgrounds, like his, in Oklahoma politics, and with advice from industry lobbyists, Mr. Pruitt has taken aim at an agency whose policies have been developed and enforced by thousands of the E.P.A.’s career scientists and policy experts, many of whom work in the same building.
“There’s a feeling of paranoia in the agency — employees feel like there’s been a hostile takeover and the guy in charge is treating them like enemies,” said Christopher Sellers, an expert in environmental history at Stony Brook University, who this spring conducted an interview survey with about 40 E.P.A. employees.
Such tensions are not unusual in federal agencies when an election leads to a change in the party in control of the White House. But they seem particularly bitter at the E.P.A.
Allies of Mr. Pruitt say he is justified in his measures to ramp up his secrecy and physical protection, given that his agenda and politics clash so fiercely with those of so many of the 15,000 employees at the agency he heads.
“E.P.A. is legendary for being stocked with leftists,” said Steven J. Milloy, a member of Mr. Trump’s E.P.A. transition team and author of the book “Scare Pollution: Why and How to Fix the E.P.A.” “If you work in a hostile environment, you’re not the one that’s paranoid.”
Mr. Pruitt’s penchant for secrecy is reflected not just in his inaccessibility and concern for security. He has terminated a decades-long practice of publicly posting his appointments calendar and that of all the top agency aides, and he has evaded oversight questions from lawmakers on Capitol Hill, according to the Democratic senators who posed the questions.
His aides recently asked career…