Emails show ties between new EPA head, energy firms-watchdog

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WASHINGTON Emails released by the Oklahoma
attorney general’s office show a cozy relationship between
energy companies and Scott Pruitt, who was the state’s top
prosecutor before being sworn in last week as the new chief U.S.
environmental regulator, a media watchdog group said on
Wednesday.

The Center for Media and Democracy has sought the release of
emails between energy companies and Pruitt for the past two
years, saying they show energy companies drafted language that
Pruitt’s attorney general office then used in suing the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency, the office he now heads, over
regulations on energy operations.

The center had sued Pruitt on Feb. 7, ahead of the Senate
vote to confirm his nomination by President Donald Trump, to
release the records detailing his communications with energy
companies.

The attorney general’s office released more than 7,500 pages
of emails late on Tuesday, holding back an unknown number of
documents it called exempted or privileged. Oklahoma Judge
Aletia Timmons is reviewing those documents, but there is no set
time for when or if they would be released.

Among the documents released were communications between
Devon Energy and Pruitt’s office that suggest the
company gave the Oklahoma officials language on limits on
methane emissions at oil and gas operations. Pruitt’s office
then used this language in suing the EPA over the regulations,
the documents suggest. (bit.ly/2lFEymC)

The EPA did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Devon serves as a resource with information and expertise
for decision makers, and its contact with Pruitt was consistent
with its policy of engaging with policymakers, company spokesman
John Porretto said.

Nick Surgey, a research director at the Center for Media and
Democracy, called the document release a “major breakthrough”
that revealed a close and friendly relationship between Pruitt’s
office and the oil and gas industry, with frequent meetings,
calls, and dinners.

The center said before the release of the emails that
Pruitt’s office had violated Oklahoma’s Open Records Act by
delaying their issuance.

Critics of Pruitt’s nomination to head the EPA were
concerned over his record on the environment – he sued the
agency more than a dozen times on behalf of his oil-producing
state and has doubted the science of climate change – and
Democrats in the Senate held an all night debate last week
trying to stop his confirmation vote until the emails were
released. He was confirmed on Friday with two Democrats from
energy-producing states voting for him.

A spokesman at the Oklahoma attorney general’s office would
not say how many documents were sent to the judge for review or
how it decided which ones to fully release. The office went “above and beyond” what is required under the Open Records Act
by producing records that would typically be considered ones
outside the law’s scope, the office said in a release.



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