Scott Pruitt

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EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt

Scott Pruitt is the former Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Before taking over the EPA, he was the Republican Attorney General of Oklahoma and a Republican member of the Oklahoma State Senate in districts 36 and 54. While Oklahoma AG, George Will called Pruitt "one of the Obama administration's most tenacious tormentors."[1]

Controversies in Pruitt's EPA

Pruitt's Calendars Detail Close Relationship with Industries He Regulates

EPA Pruitt's calendars between February and May 2017 detail many meetings with the corporations he is supposed to regulate.[2] "Since taking office in February, Mr. Trump’s E.P.A. chief has held back-to-back meetings, briefing sessions and speaking engagements almost daily with top corporate executives and lobbyists from all the major economic sectors that he regulates — and almost no meetings with environmental groups or consumer or public health advocates, according to a 320-page accounting of his daily schedule from February through May, the most detailed look yet at what Mr. Pruitt has been up to since he took over the agency," the New York Times reported.[3]

William K. Reilly, the E.P.A. administrator under the first President George Bush, was quoted in the New York Times describing, "the level of meetings between Mr. Pruitt and industry executives as unusual."[3]

California Sues EPA for Documents Regarding Pruitt

The Attorney General of the State of California sued the EPA on August 11, 2017, "alleging it failed to comply with a request for documents that might indicate whether agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has a conflict of interest" and seeking to make the EPA turn over documents in order to determine if Administrator Pruitt and his EPA have complied with federal ethics laws regarding conflicts of interest, according to the Los Angeles Times.[4]

Attorney General Xavier Becerra "used the Freedom of Information Act to request documents involving the issues on which potential conflicts could exist, but said the papers have not been provided," reported the LA Times. EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman, responded, "It's unfortunate that California is suing the Agency, draining resources that could be better spent protecting human health and the environment -- rather than working with EPA's career staff, as they can gather all the information requested."[4]

Critics Question Increased Secrecy

As EPA Administrator, "Pruitt is taking extraordinary measures to conceal his actions, according to interviews with more than 20 current and former agency employees" by the New York Times. His supporters -- such as Steven J. Milloy, the junk-science arbiter at The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition established to provide public relations cover for the tobacco industry -- claim the increased secrecy (locked floors, employee passage allowed only with escorts, employees being asked to leave behind their cell phones and/or not take any notes when meeting with Pruitt, Pruitt himself making important phone calls from others' phones rather than his own, Pruitt requesting round-the-clock security by armed guards, etc.) is because "E.P.A. is legendary for being stocked with leftists.... If you work in a hostile environment, you’re not the one that's paranoid."[5]

As of the NYT article's publication in August 2017, Pruitt's LinkedIn profile still describes him as "a leading advocate against the EPA's activist agenda," and Pruitt "has made it clear that he sees his mission to be dismantling the agency's policies -- and even portions of the institution itself," according to the Times.[5]

Pruitt's EPA Fines Fewer Polluters

Pruitt's EPA collected 60 percent less in civil penalties from polluters in the first six months of the Trump administration than the previous three administrations did in their first six months, according to a report published by the non-profit, non-partisan watchdog group Environmental Integrity Project (EIP).[6][7]

Pruitt's EPA collected $12 million in penalties from violators of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and other environmental laws in that time period; but the three previous administrations "brought more cases and collected significantly more -- an average of $30 million -- in civil penalties by July 31 of each administration's first year," according to the report (see the table from the report below).[6]

from Environmental Integrity Project report "Environmental Enforcement Under Trump: Records Show 60 Percent Drop in Civil Penalties Against Polluters During President Trump's First Six Months"

"Trump campaigned on a promise of 'law and order,' but apparently law enforcement for big polluters is not what he had in mind," Eric Schaeffer, executive director of the Environmental Integrity Project and former director of civil enforcement at EPA, said in a press release.[8]

See the full EIP report here.

CMD Sues Oklahoma Attorney General's Office for Pruitt Emails and Wins Release of Emails

The Center for Media and Democracy, publishers of SourceWatch, sued Scott Pruitt in February 2017 for his office's failure to respond to Open Records requests. According to CMD's press release:

As a result of an Open Records Act request and lawsuit filed by the Center for Media and Democracy, on Tuesday night the Oklahoma Attorney General’s office released a batch of more than 7,500 pages of emails and other records it withheld prior to Scott Pruitt's nomination as EPA Administrator last Friday. The AG's office has withheld an undetermined number of additional documents as exempted or privileged and submitted them to the Judge Aletia Haynes Timmons for review. A number of other documents were redacted, and CMD will be asking for the court to review those as well. On February 27, the AG's office has been ordered to deliver records related to five outstanding requests by CMD.[9]

CMD analyzed the emails gained through the lawsuit and found:

  • "The oil and gas lobby group American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) coordinated opposition in 2013 to both the Renewable Fuel Standard 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.'"[9]
  • Pruitt used his personal email account for official business.[10]

View the full set of emails here.

Ties to Fossil Fuel Industry

Pruitt was the focus in a Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times' investigative series published in 2014, which examined how numerous Republican attorneys general, including Pruitt, formed secret alliances with energy corporations. Top findings on Pruitt, according to the series, included:

  • Pruitt signed a letter mostly written by Devon Energy lobbyists and sent it to the EPA. The letter accused regulators of "grossly overestimating the amount of air pollution caused by energy companies drilling new natural gas wells in his state." "Energy industry lobbyists drafted letters for him to send to the E.P.A., the Interior Department, the Office of Management and Budget and even President Obama."[11]
  • Pruitt has close ties with the energy industry, including Harold G. Hamm, the CEO of the oil and gas industry company Continental Resources. "This year, Mr. Pruitt joined with a group aligned with Mr. Hamm to sue the Interior Department over its plan to consider adding animals such as the lesser prairie chicken to the endangered species list, a move that Mr. Hamm has said could knock out 'some of the most promising land for oil and gas leases in the country.' The suit was filed after Mr. Hamm announced that he would serve as the chairman of Mr. Pruitt’s re-election campaign."[11]
  • "Energy industry executives and lobbyists from across the United States saw great potential in Mr. Pruitt," wrote Eric Lipton.[11]
  • Oklahoma Gas & Electric "invited its employees to the Petroleum Club ... for a fund-raising event for Mr. Pruitt, drawing donations from about 45 employees, including the chief executive."[11]
  • "Attorney General Scott Pruitt of Oklahoma, for example, has received at least $215,574 from companies and industry employees since 2010, even though he ran unopposed in his most recent election."[11]

Climate Change Denial

Pruitt has made statements that contradict mainstream scientific consensus on climate change:

  • "Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind. That debate should be encouraged — in classrooms, public forums, and the halls of Congress. It should not be silenced with threats of prosecution. Dissent is not a crime," Pruitt stated in an editorial that he co-authored in May 2016 with Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange.[12]

Read more here.

  • According to a report by the "Financial Times," Pruitt said humanity’s contribution to global warming was “subject to considerable debate.”[13]
  • Pruitt signed an amicus brief defending ExxonMobil from climate fraud investigations in September 2016, which stated climate change was the subject of "legitimate international debate" and that "the "clearest and most undeniable fact about climate change is that, like so many other areas of science and public policy, the debate is unsettled, the research far from complete, and the path forward is unclear."[14]

Defending ExxonMobil

As Attorney General of Oklahoma, Pruitt came to the defense of ExxonMobil, which is under investigation by Democratic state attorneys general on whether the company misled the public and its shareholders about the risks of climate change. The investigation came after two reports which revealed the company knew about the risks of climate change from its own scientific research, and then funded groups that denied climate risks.[15]

  • Pruitt co-authored an editorial in May 2016 with Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange, which criticized investigations on whether ExxonMobil misled the public and its shareholders about the risks of climate change. "We won’t be joining this coalition, and we hope that those attorneys general who have joined will disavow it. Healthy debate is the lifeblood of American democracy, and global warming has inspired one of the major policy debates of our time," the co-authored piece stated.[12]
  • Pruitt was scheduled to speak during a panel at a 2016 Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA) conference, where fossil fuel industry lobbyists coordinated with Republican AG's on shielding ExxonMobil from investigations for misleading the public and its shareholders about the risks of climate change. According to the transcript of the audio session, Pruitt was not feeling well and Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange moderated the panel.[16]
  • In September 2016, Pruitt signed an amicus brief that defended ExxonMobil in a lawsuit where the company sued Massachusetts' Attorney General subpoena for 40 years of documents on whether it lied to investors about its knowledge of climate change.[14]
  • In 2016, Pruitt signed a letter along with 12 other AG's that opposed the ExxonMobil climate fraud investigations. "Using law enforcement authority to resolve a public policy debate undermines the trust invested in our offices and threatens free speech,” the AG's wrote in the letter.[17]

Blocking Action on Climate Change

In his role as AG, Pruitt worked to block the Obama administration's regulatory action aimed to address climate change:

  • Pruitt spoke at a 2015 RAGA meeting where fossil fuel giants Murray Energy and Southern Company paid for meetings with Republican attorneys general to discuss their opposition to the Clean Power Plan less than two weeks before the same GOP officials petitioned federal courts to block the Obama administration’s signature climate proposal. Pruitt spoke at the panel entitled “The Dangerous Consequences of the Clean Power Plan & Other EPA Rules.” The panel featured Pruitt, Mike Duncan, President of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) and Geoffrey Barnes, Counsel at Murray Energy, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.[18]
  • Pruitt assisted in the effort to block the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan. Pruitt stated in September 2016 that his office "devoted substantial resources to the constitutional questions" in a lawsuit against the Clean Power Plan.[19]
  • "EPA is attempting to make fundamental and irreversible changes that will jeopardize our power grid while offloading responsibility to the states that have to answer to their citizens. Oklahoma will always challenge the EPA, or any other federal agency, when it exceeds the statutory authority it is granted," an editorial co-authored by Pruitt and Jonathan Small stated.[20]
  • Pruitt testified during a May 2016 congressional hearing on the Clean Power Plan where he said the rule was “extraordinary in its intrusion into the sovereignty of the states.”[21]
  • Pruitt touted on his campaign website that the "Wall Street Journal" editorial board noted that "Oklahoma AG Scott Pruitt deserves particular credit for developing the federalist arguments and exposing how the Clean Power Plan commandeers states."[22]

Ties to ALEC

As a state legislator Pruitt was a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) where he chaired the "Civil Justice" task force.[23] "ALEC is unique in the sense that it puts legislators and companies together and they create policy collectively,” Pruitt said of ALEC in in an interview.[24]

Even after Pruitt became EPA Administrator and Oklahoma attorney general, Pruitt has stayed engaged with ALEC.

EPA Administrator Pruitt Does Conference Calls with ALEC and SPN

On May 18, 2017, Pruitt did a conference call with ALEC, the State Policy Network (SPN), and the Republican Governor's Public Policy Committee.[2] The purpose of the call is described in the schedule,

"Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt provides an update on proposed changes to EPA policy and regulations and how they will impact states. Many people on this call were leading the Clean Power Plan push-back in their state and are advocates for devolving decision making to the local level."[2]

Pruitt's schedule between February and May 2017 can be viewed here.

Pruitt Speeches at ALEC Meetings

  • In April 2017, Pruitt delivered a keynote address to ALEC.[25]
  • In 2014, Pruitt spoke at a 2014 ALEC meeting that was sponsored by polluting companies including Peabody Energy, ExxonMobil, Chevron, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE).[26]. During his speech on the Clean Power Plan, Pruitt said: "Beyond the regional haze case, we have something on the horizon something more troubling. And that’s the proposed rule under 111(d) with respect to CO2 regulation. We have an EPA that is engaged in rulemaking, proposed rulemaking, that seeks to exert itself in a way that the statute doesn’t authorize at all," Pruitt said.[27]
  • In 2013, Pruitt spoke at an ALEC meeting during a panel called "Embracing American Energy Opportunities: From Wellheads to Pipelines." CMD reported that, "Now we know from the Pruitt emails that he was invited to speak at ALEC by an industry lobbyist named Peter Glaser, a partner at the law firm Troutman Sanders LLP. Glaser has represented Peabody Energy and other energy companies fighting EPA efforts to address climate change."[28]
About ALEC
ALEC is a corporate bill mill. It is not just a lobby or a front group; it is much more powerful than that. Through ALEC, corporations hand state legislators their wishlists to benefit their bottom line. Corporations fund almost all of ALEC's operations. They pay for a seat on ALEC task forces where corporate lobbyists and special interest reps vote with elected officials to approve “model” bills. Learn more at the Center for Media and Democracy's ALECexposed.org, and check out breaking news on our PRWatch.org site.

Ties to the Kochs

Pruitt is closely tied to the billionaire Koch brothers. According to Follow the Money, Koch Industries was a top donor to Scott Pruitt when he ran for Oklahoma AG.[29] The Kochs Americans for Prosperity campaigned for Pruitt to be confirmed as EPA Administrator and praised his confirmation.[30]

Pruitt emails from his time as attorney general in Oklahoma reveal close communication between his office and the Koch network:[28]

  • "July 2013 emails show Ball organizing an August 22 event featuring Pruitt, Sen. James Lankford (OK-R), and William Yeatman, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI). Both Lankford and CEI have received Koch funding. In organizing the event, Ball helpfully instructs the AG's staff on what he wants Pruitt to say,
"Frankly, I just assume the AG and Lankford talk sue and settle, how the EPA is deploying these tactics and what their respective offices have done on oversight and litigation, and let Yeatman from CEI give an objective analysis of costs to ratepayers from revised state implementation plan on regional haze (which includes the PSO rate increase). That way you guys don't have to deliver those messages and can focus on what the AG does best, opposing the Obama administration and its nasty tactics on the environment."[28]
  • "In another email, Ball requests a same day meeting with Pruitt's Chief of Staff and Assistant Attorney General, Melissa Houston and she agrees to meet him the next day in the AG's conference room. The fractured emails do not indicate what the meeting was about."
  • "Yet another email from December 2013, invites Dean Kuckelman, Senior Counsel, Litigation and Discovery, for Koch Companies Public Sector to a conference call with two of Pruitt's assistant attorneys general and the Solicitor General. The topic of the conference is not known."
Koch Wiki

The Koch brothers -- David and Charles -- are the right-wing billionaire co-owners of Koch Industries. As two of the richest people in the world, they are key funders of the right-wing infrastructure, including the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the State Policy Network (SPN). In SourceWatch, key articles on the Kochs include: Koch Brothers, Koch Industries, Americans for Prosperity, American Encore, and Freedom Partners.

Contact Information

Scott Pruitt
USEPA Headquarters
William Jefferson Clinton Building
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N. W.
Mail Code: 1101A
Washington, DC 20460
Phone: 202-564-4700
Email: Pruitt.scott@Epa.gov
Twitter: https://twitter.com/EPAScottPruitt
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/EPAScottPruitt/
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/e-scott-pruitt-3b771653

References

  1. The Federalist Society, Hon. Scott Pruitt, The Federalist Society, 2016.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 American Oversight, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s Calendars, American Oversight, October 3, 2017.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Eric Lipton and Lisa Friedman, E.P.A. Chief’s Calendar: A Stream of Industry Meetings and Trips Home, New York Times, October 3, 2017.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Patrick McGreevy, California sues EPA for documents to determine whether Administrator Scott Pruitt has conflict of interest, Los Angeles Times, August 11, 2017.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Coral Davenport and Eric Lipton, Scott Pruitt Is Carrying Out His E.P.A. Agenda in Secret, Critics Say, New York Times, August 11, 2017.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Environmental Integrity Project, Environmental Enforcement Under Trump: Records Show 60 Percent Drop in Civil Penalties Against Polluters During President Trump's First Six Months, organizational report, August 10, 2017.
  7. Madeleine Sheehan Perkins, Pruitt's EPA isn't collecting millions of dollars from polluters — here's how it could land him in court, Business Insider, August 10, 2017.
  8. Environmental Integrity Project, Civil Penalties Against Polluters Drop 60 Percent So Far Under Trump, organizational press release, August 10, 2017.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Center for Media and Democracy, OKLAHOMA AG RELEASES 7,564 PAGES IN RESPONSE TO CMD REQUEST,organizational press release, February 22, 2017.
  10. Center for Media and Democracy, Scott Pruitt use of personal emails for official business, ExposedbyCMD.org, 2017.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 Eric Lipton, Energy Firms in Secretive Alliance With Attorneys General New York Times, December 6, 2014.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Scott Pruitt and Luther Strange, The Climate-Change Gang, National Review, May 17, 2016.
  13. Barney Jopson, Obama’s climate change legacy at risk from conservative heartland, Financial Times, April 15, 2015.
  14. 14.0 14.1 David Lee, Texas Backs ExxonMobil in Climate Fight, Courthouse News Service, September 9, 2016.
  15. Justin Gillis and Clifford Krauss, Exxon Mobil Investigated for Possible Climate Change Lies by New York Attorney General, New York Times, November 5, 2015.
  16. Nick Surgey, Transcript of RAGA Session on ExxonMobil Investigations, Exposed by CMD, September 29, 2016.
  17. Oklahoma Attorney General Office, ATTORNEY GENERAL STRANGE LEADS DEAR COLLEAGUE LETTER TO FELLOW ATTORNEYS GENERAL OPPOSING USE OF SUBPOENAS TO ENFORCE THEIR CLIMATE AGENDA VIEWS, Oklahoma Attorney General Office website, June 16, 2016.
  18. Nick Surgey, Fossil Fuel Industry Paid for Meetings with GOP Attorneys General to Plan Attack on Clean Power Plan, Exposed by CMD, September 7, 2016.
  19. Randy Krehbiel Attorney General Scott Pruitt adds voice to Clean Power Plan arguments, Tulsa World, September 28, 2015.
  20. Scott Pruitt and Jonathan Small, EPA’S clean power plan is wrong for states, The Hill, December 16, 2014.
  21. Press Release States Condemn Clean Power Plan, Committee on Science, Space and Technology website, May 26, 2016.
  22. "Meet Scott Pruitt" Meet Scott, Scott Pruitt campaign website, accessed December 2016.
  23. "Civil Justice Task Force", Civil Justice Task Force, Archive.org, accessed December 2016.
  24. Alan Greenblatt, What Makes ALEC Smart, Governing, October 2003.
  25. Lisa Friedman, Scott Pruitt Spent Much of Early Months at E.P.A. Traveling Home, Report Says, New York Times, July 24, 2017.
  26. Nick Surgey, Coal and Oil Polluters Dominate ALEC Conference, PRWatch, July 21, 2014.
  27. "Scott Pruitt 2014 ALEC Annual Meeting" [1], Youtube, uploaded February 5, 2015
  28. 28.0 28.1 28.2 David Armiak, Pruitt Emails Reveal Communications with ALEC and Koch Groups, PRWatch, March 7, 2017.
  29. Follow the Money, Scott E. Pruitt, Follow the Money, 2017.
  30. AFP, AFP Appluds Confirmation of Pruitt as EPA Administrator, AFP, February 17, 2017.