Attention Citizens: Scott Pruitt Required to Release Emails

by Duane Nichols on February 17, 2017

Senate Confirms Scott Pruitt to Head Environmental Protection Agency 52 – 46

From an Article by Leigh Ann Caldwell, NBC News, February 17, 2017

The U.S. Senate Friday confirmed Oklahoma attorney General Scott Pruitt to head the EPA in a party-line 52-46 vote.

Democrats did all they could to delay the final vote, holding another all-night session to highlight their opposition to the Oklahoma attorney general for his past battles with the regulatory agency he is now tasked to run.

Their opposition intensified after a judge ruled late Thursday that Pruitt must release a tranche of emails pertaining to his relationship with the oil and gas industry during his time as attorney general. It’s a request he’s denied for more than two years until a judge said he must comply. Despite the order, the vote on his confirmation remains slated for this afternoon.

As attorney general, Pruitt has sued the EPA and fought the agency trying to regulate the fracking boom in his state of Oklahoma. He has also questioned the impact of climate change, and during his confirmation hearing said his own views on the issue are “immaterial.”

Democrats took particular issue with Pruitt’s seemingly cozy relationship with the oil industry. He faced sharp questions over a letter his office sent to the EPA accusing the agency of overestimating the amount of methane released into the air from drilling natural gas wells. The New York Times found the letter was written almost entirely by lawyers from one of Oklahoma’s largest oil companies.

Pruitt has attributed political contributions from oil and gas companies and his close ties to the oil industries to the importance the companies have to the Oklahoma economy.

Democrats urged that his confirmation vote be delayed until February 27 when they return from their week-long recess and after the first batch of judicial-ordered emails are to be released on Tuesday.

“No lawyer in a trial would ever go to trial without known the evidence in the case,” said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., said. But Republicans went forward, saying those calls were another excuse for delay.                              

“If it wasn’t one thing it would be another,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “The effort has been to delay the nominations that they make controversial as long as possible in order to play into their left wing base which will not accept the results of the election.”

Pruitt is the latest nominee to be approved on mostly a party line vote. Because Democrats changed Senate rules in 2013, cabinet nominees are able to pass with the support of just a simple majority instead of the previously required 60 votes.

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Judge Orders Release Of EPA Nominee Scott Pruitt’s Fossil Fuel Emails

From an Article by Dominique Mosbergen, Huffington Post News, February 16, 2017

A state judge has ordered Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s office to release thousands of documents related to Pruitt’s communications with the energy industry. The Thursday ruling comes the day before a scheduled Senate vote on Pruitt’s nomination to run the Environmental Protection Agency.

Judge Aletia Haynes Timmons of the District Court of Oklahoma County ruled that the attorney general’s office will have until Tuesday to turn over more than 2,500 emails and other documents. The watchdog group Center for Media and Democracy, with legal representation from the American Civil Liberties Union, had filed a lawsuit against Pruitt earlier this month, alleging that his office had violated Oklahoma’s open records law.

The lawsuit claimed that Pruitt, who has served as Oklahoma’s attorney general since 2011, had failed to respond to nine open-records requests seeking communications between his office and members of the fossil fuel industry, including Koch Industries, Peabody Energy and the National Coal Council. The requests had been filed as far back as January 2015.

“We are doing this because these emails should be released so that people can properly vet his record before the Senate votes to confirm him,” Nick Surgey, director of research for the Center for Media and Democracy, told Reuters earlier this month.

On Thursday, Judge Timmons criticized the attorney general’s office for its “abject failure” to abide by the open-records act, according to the watchdog group.

Pruitt, whose nomination as EPA administrator was approved by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on February 2, is scheduled to face a full Senate confirmation vote on Friday, February 17th, before the release of emails.

Environmentalists and public policy groups are calling for the vote to be postponed until all his Big Oil documents have been released and can be examined.

“Senate Republicans are attempting to jam through a nominee who fails any basic test of transparency and honesty required from a public official. Has Scott Pruitt lied to the American people? What favors did he give the oil and gas industry in exchange for their support? Until we have the answers, this nomination can go no further,” said Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters, in a statement Thursday. 

Senate Democrats have also pushed for the vote to be delayed until they can review the communications demanded in the lawsuit. “These records are needed for the Senate to evaluate Mr. Pruitt’s suitability to serve in the position for which he has been nominated,” Democratic members of the Committee on Environment and Public Works Committee wrote earlier this week.

Republicans are forcing through Scott Pruitt’s nomination while he refuses to answer @EPWDems‘ questions. We object! Americans object!

— Senator Tom Carper (@SenatorCarper) February 16, 2017
Trump picked the worst group of cabinet nominees in the modern history of America. But EPA nominee Scott Pruitt is the worst of the worst.

— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) February 16, 2017
Pruitt, who sued the EPA 13 times as attorney general, has been heavily scrutinized for his ties to the energy industry. Since 2002, he’s received more than $300,000 in contributions from the fossil fuel sector. As attorney general, he’s been accused of prioritizing industry interests over the health and wellbeing of the environment and his constituents.

In 2014, The New York Times reported that Pruitt and other Republican attorneys general had formed an “unprecedented, secretive alliance” with major oil and gas companies to undermine environmental regulations. Pruitt also joined industry players ― including Oklahoma Gas and Electric and the Domestic Energy Producers Alliance, an industry-backed nonprofit ― in filing lawsuits to stop regulations.

Hundreds of former and current EPA officials have urged the Senate to refuse to confirm him. Almost 800 former EPA staffers signed a letter expressing their opposition. The New York Times reported Thursday that droves of employees at the agency have been calling on their senators to vote “no.”

“It is rare,” James A. Thurber, director of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University, told the Times about the wave of activism from EPA employees. “I can’t think of any other time when people in the bureaucracy have done this.”

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