On May 2, U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Tom Carper (D-DE) sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt and federal ethics officials. The letter called attention to the ongoing open records lawsuit by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) against Pruitt for 3,100 pages of unreleased communications between Pruitt, fossil fuel companies, and other special interests now with business before the EPA. The Oklahoma Attorney General’s office has withheld those emails based on vague legal claims, which CMD has challenged.
These documents, the Senators write, “could call into question Pruitt’s ability to do his job impartially as required by federal administrative and ethics law.”
“The existence of these documents likely makes the recusal statement you have filed with EPA incomplete,” write the Senators.
“While you have chosen to send the public and Congress chasing through state bureaucracy and the courts to learn about your industry ties, it remains your responsibility under federal ethics rules to provide to EPA’s designated agency ethics official (DAEO) information that may be relevant to whether or not you should be recused from particular matters. See 5 C.F.R. §2635.502(a). By regulation, the DAEO may undertake an independent assessment of the facts, at any time, of your compliance with the rules. The OK AG’s determination that thousands of pages of documents are privileged because of litigation makes them immediately relevant to the scope of your recusal. Through this letter, we are putting the DAEO and the Office of Government Ethics on notice of these materials with a request that steps be taken to obtain and review these documents to ensure your full compliance with the Ethics in Government Act as well as the accuracy and completeness of your recusal statement,” write the Senators.