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Emails reveal new EPA chief Pruitt worked closely with oil, gas firms

By Allen Cone
Emails reveal new EPA chief Pruitt worked closely with oil, gas firms
Scott Pruitt, the new administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency during his confirmation hearing last month. File Photo by Mike Theiler/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 22 (UPI) -- New EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt worked closely with major oil and gas producers to roll back environmental regulations while attorney general in Oklahoma, thousands of emails reveal.

An Oklahoma judge ordered the release of the emails last Thursday, one day before Pruitt was confirmed by a 52-46 Senate vote to the EPA post. The judge found Pruitt in violation of the state's Open Records Act for improperly withholding public records.

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Democrats were unsuccessful in delaying his confirmation vote until early March. Republicans argued Pruitt was the right candidate to reduce the size and authority of the EPA.

The Center for Media and Democracy released the emails Wednesday morning, one day after Pruitt's former office turned them over to a state court in Oklahoma. The group said it received 7,564 pages of emails.

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"Despite repeated attempts by Pruitt and the Oklahoma AG's office to stonewall CMD 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. "The newly released emails reveal a close and friendly relationship between Scott Pruitt's office and the fossil fuel industry, with frequent meetings, calls, dinners and other events."

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In one 2013 email, the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers coordinated opposition to the Renewable Fuel Standard Program and ozone limits with Pruitt's office. The group said it was giving Pruitt "template language" for an Oklahoma petition because the petition would be "more credible coming from a state."

Pruitt later filed opposition to the program and ozone limits.

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Pruitt also had a close relationship with Devon Energy, which helped him draft language in a letter sent to the EPA on limiting methane from oil and gas fracking. Released emails confirmed a 2014 series by The New York Times that won a Pulitzer Prize for exposing the close relationship and highlighted letters Devon Energy drafted that were sent by Pruitt under his own name.

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."

Since becoming Oklahoma's top justice official in 2011, Pruitt filed multiple lawsuits against the agency he now leads. Pruitt was a state senator before being state attorney general.

More than 800 former and current EPA staff members opposed his nomination.

Several dozen of them sent a letter to the Senate pleading with them not to nominate Pruitt.

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Pruitt addressed EPA employees for the first time Tuesday.

"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.

He urged the agency to "avoid abuses" in regulations.

"Regulations ought to make things regular," he told the employees. "Regulators exist to give certainty to those that they regulate. Those that we regulate ought to know what's expected of them, so that they can plan and allocate resources to comply."

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