After a close Senate vote on Friday
, Scott Pruitt ascended from the position of frequent critic of the Environmental Protection Agency to become its boss.
Up until the last minute before the vote, Democrats objected to the former Oklahoma Attorney General’s confirmation. They argued the vote should be put off until a trove of emails between Pruitt’s Oklahoma office and fossil fuel companies were released.
Pruitt had avoided releasing the emails despite repeated requests for more than two years, until Thursday, the day before his confirmation. An Oklahoma judge ordered the emails released to the Center for Media and Democracy, a watchdog group behind the lawsuit, by Tuesday. On Wednesday, CMD published the emails on its website, with the exception of a few the Attorney General’s office redacted for further review by the judge.
In a sense, the emails tell an old story: Pruitt is a man with deep ties to fossil fuel companies who has focused a great deal of government power on backing their interests.
Back in 2014, Eric Lipton of The New York Times won a Pulitzer Prize for an investigation that showed Pruitt was sending letters to the federal government under his own name that were in fact written by lawyers and lobbyists for Oklahoma oil and gas company Devon Energy. And Pruitt appears to have made a false claim under oath during his confirmation hearings to suggest he pursued an environmental lawsuit against a company.
The Senate confirmed Pruitt despite that known reality, and there doesn’t appear to be anything in the thousands of emails (which Business Insider has partly but not completely reviewed) that could potentially put his position at the head of the EPA in jeopardy.
But the emails do fill in gaps and add chapters to the story of Pruitt’s previous dalliances with big, EPA-opposing business interests.
As CMD highlighted in their press release, the emails show Pruitt’s then-chief of staff coordinating legal efforts with Devon Energy. The oil and gas lobbying group American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers also passed along language for petitions opposing Obama-era ozone regulations and the Renewable Fuel Standard Program. Pruitt’s office later filed both petitions.
It’s important to note that none of these conversations and coordinated efforts with the industry appear to have been illegal. Rather, it just further reinforces the fact that Pruitt is a wildly unusual pick to lead the EPA. But if Trump or the Senate had a problem with that, it’s unlikely they would have put him in the role despite the opposition of nearly 800 former EPA staff.
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