By Brady Dennis and Steven Mufson
22 February 2017
(The Washington Post) – In his previous role as Oklahoma’s attorney general, the Environmental Protection Agency’s new administrator 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,” according to thousands of pages of emails made public Wednesday.
“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 Nick Surgey, research director for the Center for Media and Democracy, which has sued to compel the release of the emails.
The emails highlight an often-chummy relationship between Pruitt’s office and Devon Energy, a major oil and gas exploration and production company based in Oklahoma City. 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.
“Any suggestions?” a deputy solicitor general in Pruitt’s office wrote to a Devon executive in early May 2013, including a draft of a letter the office was planning to send to the EPA regarding proposed regulations of methane emissions.
“Here you go,” the executive, Bill Whitsitt replied. “Please note that you could use just the red changes, or both red and blue (the latter being some further improvements from one of our experts) or none.”
“I sent the letter today,” the deputy solicitor general wrote the following day. “Thanks for all your help on this.”
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 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.
In one example, Pruitt was a speaker at an ALEC conference on 3 May 2013, in Oklahoma City. He was part of a panel called, “Embracing American Energy Opportunities: From Wellheads to Pipelines.” The event also featured a reception at the Petroleum Club and a luncheon sponsored by Koch Industries.
The Oklahoma attorney general’s office handed over the batch of emails — nearly 7,000 pages in all — this week in order to meet a deadline set by a judge who ordered the documents’ release following more than two years of effort by CMD, a liberal watchdog organization. The group had sued to compel the state to release the documents under public records laws. (The emails can be viewed here.)