Thousands of pages of emails between newly confirmed EPA administrator Scott Pruitt and fossil fuel companies during his time as Oklahoma attorney general—released per court order on Tuesday night—confirm "a close and friendly relationship" between the man now charged with protecting the U.S. environment and entities seeking to hamper those efforts.
The Oklahoma Attorney General's office on Tuesday released a batch of more than 7,500 pages of emails and other records, after a judge last week found Pruitt in violation of the state's Open Records Act for improperly withholding public records requested by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD). The group made the documents public on Wednesday.
They show that Pruitt—who sued the EPA more than a dozen times as attorney general—"closely coordinated with major oil and gas producers, electric utilities, and political groups with ties to the libertarian billionaire brothers Charles G. and David H. Koch to roll back environmental regulations," according to the New York Times.
The Times continued:
The companies provided him draft letters to send to federal regulators in an attempt to block federal regulations intended to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from oil and gas wells, ozone air pollution, and chemicals used in fracking, the email correspondence shows.
They held secret meetings to discuss more comprehensive ways to combat the Obama administration's environmental agenda, and the companies and organizations they funded repeatedly praised Mr. Pruitt and his staff for the assistance he provided in their campaign.
Furthermore, reporter Steve Horn wrote for DeSmog Blog, "[t]he emails also shed new light on the relationship between Pruitt and the sphere of advocacy outfits and legal groups funded by Koch Industries' billionaires Charles and David Koch."
One 2013 note from Matt Ball, an executive at the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity, to Pruitt and an Oklahoma congressman read in part: "Thank you to your respective bosses and all they are doing to push back against President [Barack] Obama's EPA and its axis with liberal environmental groups to increase energy costs for Oklahomans and American families across the states. You both work for true champions of freedom and liberty!"
The Koch brothers worked hard to get Pruitt confirmed.
All in all, "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," said CMD director of research Nick Surgey.
CMD highlighted the following instances in a press statement:
- The oil and gas lobby group American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) coordinated opposition in 2013 to both the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) Program and ozone limits with Pruitt's office. While AFPM was making its own case against the RFS with the American Petroleum Institute, it provided Pruitt with a template language for an Oklahoma petition, noting "this argument is more credible coming from a State." Later that year, Pruitt did file opposition to both the RFS and ozone limits.
- In a groundbreaking New York Times Pulitzer winning series in 2014, Eric Lipton exposed the close relationship between Devon Energy and Scott Pruitt, and highlighted examples where Devon Energy drafted letters that were sent by Pruitt under his own name. These new emails reveal more of the same close relationship with Devon Energy. In one email, Devon Energy helped draft language that was later sent by Pruitt to the EPA about the limiting of methane from oil and gas fracking.
- In 2013, Devon Energy organized a meeting between Scott Pruitt, Leonard Leo of the Federalist Society, and coal industry lawyer Paul Seby to plan the creation of a "clearinghouse" that would "assist AGs in addressing federalism issues." Melissa Houston, then Pruitt's chief of staff, emailed Devon Energy saying "this will be an amazing resource for the AGs and for industry."
"You are so amazingly helpful!!! Thank you so much!!!" Houston wrote in a 2013 email to Devon Energy's vice president for public affairs.
Groups and Democratic senators had called for Pruitt's confirmation vote to be delayed until the emails could be reviewed, but the GOP-led Senate pushed ahead anyway. On Wednesday, CMD general counsel Arn Pearson said the belated release of the documents was orchestrated so their contents would "evade public scrutiny."
"There is no valid legal justification for the emails we received last night not being released prior to Pruitt's confirmation vote other than to evade public scrutiny," Pearson said. "There are hundreds of emails between the AG's office, Devon Energy, and other polluters that senators should have been permitted to review prior to their vote to assess Pruitt's ties to the fossil fuel industry."
More emails are coming next week, as Judge Aletia Haynes Timmons ordered the Oklahoma AG's office to turn over an undetermined number of documents responsive to CMD's five additional open records requests outstanding between November 2015 and August 2016 by Monday.
People are tweeting about the document dump under the hashtag #pruittemails: