Just days after the senate narrowly approved former Oklahoma attorney general and perpetual climate change denier, Scott Pruitt, as the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Center for Media and Democracy released a trove of emails confirming Pruitt’s massive conflicts of interest.
After losing an Open Records Act lawsuit, the Oklahoma Attorney General’s office released more than 7,500 pages of emails and other documents public revealing the close ties between new EPA administrator and fossil fuels giants.
The documents show that Pruitt, as attorney general, closely colluded with oil and gas companies to challenge environmental regulations.
In 2013, he even signed and sent a letter objecting federal regulations on hydraulic fracturing to then-Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. Ironically, the letter, sent on state letterhead, was nearly identical to what Oklahoma-based Devon Energy, a top conservative lobbyist, had sent to him months prior.
The only change Pruitt’s office made was adding a paragraph with legal jargon to defend the argument against, what is commonly referred to as, fracking.
It was not a one-off.
The same year, another lobby group, the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, handed Pruitt’s office the template language for a petition to oppose ozone limits and the renewable fuel standard program.
The attorney general later filed the very same letter.
The records also show Pruitt and his aides were in regular contact with several oil and natural gas giants including the billionaire Koch brothers – a major source of funding for the Republicans.
The documents revealed Pruitt's deputy solicitor general, Clayton Eubanks, once sent Devon Energy a draft letter regarding the regulation of methane emissions. The company’s executive vice president of public affairs, Bill Whitsitt, later replied with proposed additions and Pruitt sent it word-for-word to the EPA the next day.
For those who might be unaware, Pruitt also sued the department he is now leading 14 times over “pollution regulations relating to mercury, smog, methane and sulfur dioxide.”
Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D), who voted against Pruitt, believes this information would have made a difference had it been released before his hearing.
“Seeing industry representatives fawning over Pruitt’s efforts to attack the EPA, it’s clear that this information should have been closely examined by the Senate as we considered his nomination to run that agency,” he said in a statement.
He has a valid point.
The contents of these records not only support The New York Times’ Pulitzer-prize winning “Energy Firms in Secretive Alliance with Attorneys General,” which unveiled Pruitt's ties to the fossil fuel industry, it also intensifies the concerns activists and analysts had regarding the new EPA head’s relations with the companies his department is supposed to regulate.
Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters, Joshua Roberts