Scott Pruitt caricature by DonkeyHotey
Editor's Update: On February 17th, Senators voted 52-46 to confirm Mr. Pruitt to head the EPA. The confirmation comes after an all-night attempt by Democratic Senators to prevent his confirmation, and just one day after the Oklahoma County Court found Trump EPA nominee Scott Pruitt in violation of the state’s Open Records Act. The Center for Media and Democracy had filed a lawsuit against Pruitt for improperly withholding public records. Pruitt's office released some 400 emails last week. The judge gave Pruitt’s office until Tuesday, February 21, to turn over more than 2,500 emails it withheld from CMD’s January 2015 records request, and just 10 days to turn over an undetermined number of documents responsive to CMD’s 5 additional open records requests outstanding between November 2015 and August 2016.
Just days before the full Senate votes on his appointment as director of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt has been hit with an Open Records Act lawsuit. The lawsuit, filed on February 7 by the nonprofit Center for Media and Democracy, asserts that, as Oklahoma’s Attorney General, Pruitt has refused to provide public access to almost 3,000 official emails and other documents requested under the Oklahoma Open Records Act.
“Attorney General Pruitt had two years to respond to a lawful request for documents from his office,” Ryan Kiesel, executive director of the Oklahoma ACLU, which is helping represent CMD in the case, stated in a press release. “Instead of complying with the law, he has stonewalled public interest groups, the United States Senate, and the American people.”
Since 2015, CMD has filed seven records requests seeking information about communications between Pruitt’s office, Koch Industries, and other coal, oil, and gas corporations. The requests are part of a years-long effort by the investigative group to expose compromising relationships between corporate energy interests and Pruitt and other attorneys general.
During his Senate confirmation hearing, Pruitt faced repeated questions about his support from, and for, fossil fuel interests. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island and member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, displayed a chart listing ExxonMobil, Murray Energy, and Koch Industries, among other companies that he says have contributed to Pruitt’s campaigns and organizations.
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse questioning Scott Pruitt on his associations with the fossil fuel industry.
During the past fifteen years, members of the fossil fuel industry have donated almost $350,000 in campaign money to Pruitt, according to CMD. Donors include Continental Resources, whose CEO served as Pruitt’s 2014 campaign chairman. The fracking company Devon Energy and coal company Alliance Resources provided “substantial” funds to Pruitt’s two federal PACs—Liberty 2.0 and Oklahoma Strong. In 2014, The New York Times published an investigation showing that letters Pruitt sent to the EPA and Department of Interior as his own—in which he claimed that the EPA was “overestimating methane emissions from natural gas production”—were in fact drafted by lobbyists for Devon Energy.
Last year, Pruitt orchestrated an effort by Republican state attorneys general to oppose the confirmation of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. In March, according to CMD, Pruitt sent an email to supporters of one federal PAC boasting of his efforts to block Garland’s confirmation as well as “successfully [blocking] the President’s Clean Power plan, his immigration rule and his attempt at a massive takeover of the waters of the U.S.”
Pruitt has also failed to take legal action to protect Oklahoma residents impacted by swarms of fracking-induced earthquakes. Oklahoma, a seismically inactive area before gas fracking operations began, had 857 earthquakes last year, more than the rest of the continental United States combined.
More than 490 former employees of the EPA have sent an open letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell expressing their concerns over Pruitt’s nomination, stating: “Mr. Pruitt’s record and public statements strongly suggest that he does not share the vision or agree with the underlying principles of our environmental laws.”
Pruitt has not released a single document, although he has acknowledged that his office has 3,000 emails relevant to CMD’s original request in January of 2015.
According to Nick Surgey, CMD’s director of research, “Families in Michigan and Pennsylvania grappling with unsafe drinking water, communities from California to Florida dealing with damage to our climate, and parents looking for ways to clean up the air their kids breathe all deserve the facts behind whose interests Pruitt really serves.”