Trump EPA nominee ordered to release emails with energy industry

Democrats are concerned about Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt's contact with Koch Industries and other mining and drill companies ahead of his expected approval to run the EPA.
By Stephen Feller   |   Feb. 17, 2017 at 2:00 AM
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Feb. 17 (UPI) -- An Oklahoma judge on Thursday ordered President Donald Trump's nominee to run the Environmental Protection Agency to turn over thousands of emails he exchanged with or about the fossil fuel industry by next Tuesday, though he may already be confirmed for the position by then.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, whose confirmation hearing for head of the EPA is scheduled for Friday, was ordered by Oklahoma County District Judge Aletia Haynes Timmons to fulfill public records requests for more than 3,000 emails by the Center for Media and Democracy.

The CMD filed suit after more than eight requests for records were denied or ignored. Pruitt's office earlier this week turned over 411 of the emails, which are among documents requested by the group starting in 2014.

Democrats in the Senate have sought to have the vote on Pruitt's nomination delayed until the emails have been received and reviewed because, they say, the communications may shed light on Pruitt's view of the EPA and how he may run the agency.

"This development really requires a delay in this vote," Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said Thursday. "We have an obligation in advising and consenting to be as fully informed as possible."

The CMD has sought access to the emails for the last two years based on concerns about the handling of energy issues in Oklahoma. During his nomination hearing, Pruitt suggested senators file public records requests after declining to provide the emails as part of his hearing.

Calling the filings and lawsuit part of a "political axe to grind," Pruitt's office said they have a backlog of more than 100 requests and are attempting to fulfill all of them.

While Republican Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, called the insistence on seeing the emails "ridiculous" and that Pruitt is "the most thoroughly vetted nominee we've ever had to lead this agency," Democrats questioned why the emails are being so closely guarded.

Democrats say that concerns about exchanges with Koch Industries, other mining and drill companies and the Republican Attorneys General Association, in addition to Pruitt's contentious history suing the EPA, are relevant to the job he is likely to be confirmed for.

"The public has a right to know what is in all of those emails," Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., said Thursday. "They have a right to know what the record is of the chief protector of the environment in the United States."

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