EPA has signed a research agreement with an Israeli company that Administrator Scott Pruitt met with last year at the request of GOP mega-donor Sheldon Adelson.
The agency will study one of the company’s products, an “atmospheric water generator,” essentially a giant dehumidifier that pulls drinkable water out of the air.
The company, Water-Gen, pitches its technology as useful for remote areas that lack proper water infrastructure. The devices could also be useful following large-scale disasters that disrupt clean water supplies. Water-Gen sent four water generators to Texas and Florida following Hurricanes Harvey and Irma last year.
“EPA believes in facilitating cooperative research efforts that will foster innovative solutions to pressing environmental issues, and looks forward to working with other companies and organizations on technology development efforts,” Pruitt said in a statement on Tuesday.
Pruitt met on March 29, 2017, with executives from Water-Gen “as a request of Sheldon Adelson,” according to copies of his calendar that were released after activists filed a lawsuit. Adelson’s relationship with the company is unclear.
In the meeting was Maxim Pasik, Water-Gen’s executive chairman. According to Pasik’s biography, he is also involved in a company that invests in oil and gas projects and a company that designs “green vertical walls.” Also attending was Yehuda Kaploun, president of Water-Gen’s U.S. division.
It is not clear whether the executives specifically pitched an R&D agreement at that meeting.
Pasik also had a followup meeting with Pruitt and other officials May 10, according to the administrator’s calendar.
EPA did not respond immediately to questions Tuesday night about the meeting or Adelson’s involvement. Late-night emails to an Adelson representative and Water-Gen executives were not immediately returned either.
EPA’s Office of Research and Development put out the public call for partners to help study atmospheric water generation in September, months after the Pruitt meeting.
The agency signed the research agreement with Water-Gen in January. It was not immediately clear why the agreement was not announced until two months later.
The agreement involves the company lending one of its generators to EPA for at least three months for study at the agency’s Cincinnati laboratory. EPA did not pay the company and is not being paid, the agency said.
Known as a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement, or CRADA, the agreement lets EPA work with the company on testing the generators and studying potential uses in the U.S. Such agreements are not unusual. EPA said it entered into eight similar agreements during fiscal year 2017, and dozens of less complex agreements to share data or materials.
Water-Gen has worked in recent years to boost its U.S. profile.
Alan Dershowitz, the prominent American attorney and a member of Water-Gen’s board of directors, pitched the technology at last year’s gathering of American Israel Public Affairs Committee, just two days before Pruitt’s meeting.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave the company a nod at this year’s AIPAC conference earlier this month, saying the technology “improves on Moses,” who is described in two sections of the Torah as producing water from a rock.
The specific device EPA is studying, the GEN-350, is a medium-scale generator that can create 600 liters of clean water, or about 160 gallons, each day. It weighs more than 1,700 pounds and can be transported by truck or SUV to remote locations, according to the company’s website.
Water-Gen also makes a smaller version for homes or offices that generates up to eight gallons a day, as well as a large-scale version it pitches for large buildings that can produce over 1,300 gallons daily. All run on electricity.