President Donald Trump’s pick to lead the EPA may have just hit a confirmation-ending stumbling block.
E&E (Energy & Envrionment) News reported on Thursday that Oklahoma judge Aletia Haynes Timmons is calling for all of Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s emails to be released to the Madison, Wisconsin-based Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), which has been seeking them for two years under Oklahoma’s open records act. After a 25-minute hearing, Judge Timmons ruled that the Oklahoma Attorney General’s office must either turn over the roughly 3,000 documents either to CMD directly, or provide them to the court for inspection.
CMD’s request to see the emails was done specifically to see Pruitt’s communications with the fossil fuel industry. As Oklahoma’s Attorney General, Pruitt has sued the EPA more than a dozen times over various environmental regulations implemented during the Obama administration.
As the New York Times previously reported, Pruitt — who has been the beneficiary of roughly a quarter-million dollars in campaign contributions from the oil & gas industry — twice copied and pasted draft language from fossil fuel lobbyists onto state letterhead and mailed letters disputing environmental regulations to Obama’s EPA. The Times detailed one example in which Pruitt, who was first elected as Attorney General in 2011, did the bidding of a fossil fuel company fighting methane regulations:
“Just a note to pass along the electronic version of the draft letter to Lisa Jackson at E.P.A.,” said one September 2011 letter to Mr. Pruitt’s chief of staff from [Devon Energy executive] Mr. [Bill] Whitsitt. “We have no pride of authorship, so whatever you do on this is fine.”
Mr. Pruitt took the letter and, after changing just 37 words in the 1,016-word draft, copied it onto his state government letterhead and sent it to Ms. Jackson, the E.P.A. administrator.
Pruitt’s office requested a two-year halt on the release of the emails, citing a backlog in his office. Judge Timmons’ decision will overrule his request, meaning his office will have to provide the emails immediately under an order from the court.
Earlier this week, Pruitt’s confirmation vote, which is pending in the full senate, was delayed by Senate Democrats until a response was delivered to the pending public records request over Pruitt’s emails. Pruitt’s vote is scheduled for Friday.
Zach Cartwright is an activist and author from Richmond, Virginia. He enjoys writing about politics, government, and the media. Send him an email at [email protected]