EPA Head’s Past Emails With Fossil Fuel Industry Confirm Close Ties

By Yessenia Funes Feb 23, 2017

Newly confirmed EPA administrator Scott Pruitt released more than 7,500 pages of emails to the Center for Media and Democracy yesterday (February 22) after an Oklahoma County District Court Judge ruled February 16 that he’d have to hand over correspondence between himself and mining and drilling companies like Koch Industries.

The lawsuit, Center for Media and Democracy v. Scott Pruitt, resulted from Pruitt withholding public records after the Center filed numerous requests through the Oklahoma’s Open Records Act since 2015—when Pruitt was the state’s attorney general—to access the information.

“Despite repeated attempts by Pruitt and the Oklahoma [Attorney General’s] office to stonewall [the Center] and the public, we’ve won a major breakthrough in obtaining access to public records that shine a light on Pruitt’s emails with polluters and their proxies,” said Nick Surgey, research director at the Center for Media and Democracy, in an online statement.

Senate Democrats tried to delay Pruitt’s confirmation on February 17 until these emails came out, but failed. He’s already told his staff that he wants the agency to follow a “pro-energy” strategy.

Some of the highlights from these emails, according to the Center:

  • In 2013, Pruitt filed opposition to ozone limits and the Renewable Fuel Standard Program, which requires that a certain volume of renewable fuel (like biomass-based diesel) replace or reduce the amount of petroleum-based transportation fuel, heating oil or jet fuel. This move came after the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers lobby group provided Pruitt with template language against the regulations. “This argument is more credible coming from a state,” the group wrote to him.
  • The emails also showed that Pruitt maintained close relationships with Devon Energy, a leading oil and gas company. It helped the then-attorney general draft language used in a letter Pruitt sent to the EPA about methane limits from oil and gas fracking. This confirms an investigation by The New York Times in 2014 that found Devon Energy lawyers were writing his letters to the EPA.
  • Pruitt’s appreciation for federalism, an overarching point in his address to EPA employees February 21, was apparent in correspondence about the fossil fuel industry. He emphasized that each branch of government has its role and duty and that federal agencies like the EPA should respect what Congress says it can and cannot do. As the emails show, Pruitt met with the Federalist Society and coal industry lawyer Paul Seby in 2013 to “assist [attorney generals] in addressing federalism issues.”

Access the complete batch of emails here, toward the bottom of the page.