Environment

Emails reveal EPA chief Pruitt's work with oil, gas companies

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt worked closely with major oil and gas producers, electric utilities and political groups to roll back numerous environmental regulations during his time as Oklahoma’s attorney general, new records reveal.

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An Oklahoma judge ordered the release of thousands of emails between Pruitt and fossil fuel companies like Koch Industries and Devon Energy last week -- after he and the state AG's office were accused of ignoring multiple records requests. 

The group that sought the emails, the Center for Media and Democracy, pointed to the messages to accuse Pruitt of being too close to the industries he'll now regulate. 

“The newly released emails reveal a close and friendly relationship between Scott Pruitt’s office and the fossil fuel industry,” Nick Surgey, research director at CMD, said in a statement Wednesday.

The emails were released days after Pruitt was narrowly confirmed by the Senate to lead the EPA. Pruitt was an outspoken critic of the agency's policies during the Obama administration, and the emails shed light on how he fought against its regulations. 

One email showed that American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers coordinated opposition in 2013 to both the Renewable Fuel Standard Program and ozone limits with Pruitt’s office. 

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CMD said the group provided Pruitt with "template language" for an Oklahoma petition, under the assumption that the argument "is more credible coming from a State."

Pruitt filed opposition to both the RFS and ozone limits in 2013.

Other emails highlight the apparently close relationship Pruitt had with Devon Energy. The company helped Pruitt draft language in a letter he sent to the EPA about the limiting of methane from oil and gas fracking, according to CMD.

Devon also helped organize a meeting between Pruitt, coal industry lawyer Paul Seby and Leonard Leo of the Federalist Society to create a “clearinghouse” that would “assist AGs in addressing federalism issues.”

Devon defended its relationship with Pruitt, telling Fox News that its ties were "consistent -- and proportionate -- with our commitment to engage in conversations with policymakers on a broad range of matters that promote jobs, economic growth and a robust domestic energy sector."  

In another email dated August 2013, Matt Ball, an executive at Americans for Prosperity, sent Pruitt an email thanking him and his “respective bosses and all they are doing to push back against President Obama’s EPA and its axis with liberal environmental groups to increase energy costs for Oklahomans and American families across the states.”

Pruitt was confirmed to head up the EPA after a lengthy floor debate in the Senate. Democrats blasted him for vowing to roll back Obama-era environmental regulations and took issue with past comments he made where he challenged the science behind climate change.

Republicans, fed up with overregulation, argued Pruitt was the right candidate to scale back the size and reach of the EPA. 

Pruitt delivered his first remarks to EPA employees on Tuesday, urging them to "avoid" regulatory "abuses" and balance economic and environmental needs

“We as an agency and we as a nation can be both pro-energy and jobs and we can be pro-environment, and we don’t have to choose between the two,” Pruitt said. 

It was on the eve of his confirmation that Pruitt was ordered by the judge to turn over more than 2,000 documents. Democrats used the development to push for a delay in the vote, but did not succeed. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell slammed efforts to postpone the vote as another delay tactic by Democrats that was “unprecedented, harmful and pointless.”

Arn Pearson, general counsel for CMD accused the AG's office of trying to "evade public scrutiny" by releasing the emails Tuesday night. 

Calls to the EPA for comment were not returned.

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