Emails released in February show that new Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt worked closely with fossil fuel companies, electric utilities, and conservative political groups to undermine federal efforts to curb carbon emissions while he served as Oklahoma’s attorney general.
Even prior to to the disclosure, environmental groups and democrats had already strongly opposed Pruitt’s appointment. He has described himself as a “leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda” and sued the organization 14 times over pollution regulations while attorney general.
The emails were released pursuant to the order of an Oklahoma judge, who ruled that more than 7500 pages of emails could be released. The court found that Pruitt had been illegally withholding them for the last two years, since the correspondence is public record under state law.
Pruitt Was Confirmed Days before the Emails Were Released, Despite Democratic Opposition
While Senate Democrats had hoped to delay the vote on Pruitt’s confirmation until after the emails were released, Republicans managed to push the vote through days before the disclosure. He was confirmed largely along party lines. (One lone Republican Senator, Susan Collins of Maine, voted against.)
Although Pruitt’s ties with the fossil fuel industry were known generally prior to the confirmation thanks to a 2014 New York Times story, the extent and nature of his relationships were not fully known until the emails were disclosed. “[S]eeing 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,” said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D) of Rhode Island.
“There was no new information in these emails to support the left’s anti-Pruitt fever dreams,” said Jeremy Adler, a spokesman for America Rising Squared, a conservative research group.
What the Emails Reveal
The emails revealed close communication and collaboration between Pruitt’s office and groups working to roll back federal climate protections.
Various companies provided Pruitt’s office with template letters to send to federal regulators in an attempt to block pro-environment regulations. One email reveals that American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, an oil and gas lobby group, supplied template language to oppose federal ozone limits and the renewable fuel standard program. The organization asked that Pruitt’s office challenge the rules, stating: “This argument is more credible coming from a state.” Pruitt did file an opposition to the regulations later that year.