A trove of nearly 7,000 emails between Scott Pruitt and his industry allies, released just days after he was sworn in as Environmental Protection Agency administrator, show that the former Oklahoma attorney general “regularly huddled with fossil fuel firms and electric utilities about how to combat federal environmental regulations, and spoke to conservative political groups about what they called government ‘overreach,’” the Washington Post reports.
The U.S. Center for Media and Democracy had sued for release of the emails, which “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 Research Director Nick Surgey.
Senate Democrats and environmental organizations had tried to delay the vote to confirm Pruitt, who sued the EPA more than a dozen times during the Obama years, until Tuesday’s deadline for the release of the emails. “Republicans forged ahead anyway, and Pruitt was confirmed by a 52-to-46 vote,” the Post recounts.
Now that they’ve been released, “the emails show that Pruitt and his office were in touch with a network of conservative groups, many of which in the past have received backing from billionaire brothers Charles G. and David H. Koch, the libertarian owners of Koch Industries, a major oil company,” the Post notes.
“The documents detail not only how Pruitt’s office at times coordinated with industry officials to fight unwanted regulations from Washington, but also how he was a highly sought-after speaker at conferences and other gatherings for groups such as the American Legislative Exchange Council, which works with corporate interests and state legislators to shape key pieces of legislation.”
The Post also points to the “often-chummy relationship” between Pruitt’s office and Oklahoma-based fossil Devon Energy. “The correspondence makes clear that top officials at the company met often with Pruitt or people who worked for him. Devon representatives also helped draft—and redraft—letters for Pruitt to sign and send to federal officials in an effort to stave off new regulations,” including the EPA’s proposed methane rules.
“Though the emails show Pruitt’s ties with a wide range of fossil fuel interests and conservative political groups, they show a particularly friendly working relationship with officials at Devon,” write reporters Brady Dennis and Steven Mufson. “At one point, Pruitt’s then-chief of staff, Melissa Houston, wrote in a January 9, 2013, email to [Bill] Whitsitt, Devon’s vice president for public affairs: ‘You are so amazingly helpful!!! Thank you so much!!!’”
Natural Resources Defense Council President Rhea Suh said the emails show Pruitt putting industry interests over public health. “This is Scott Pruitt’s mission statement: attack environmental safeguards, protect industrial polluters, and let the public pay the price,” she said in a statement. “These emails tell us that he’s in league with the very industries we’ve now entrusted him to police. He so deeply embedded himself with energy companies that they described Pruitt and his allies as ‘fossil energy AGs,’ a badge of dishonour for a public guardian if ever there were one.”