For more than two years, the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) has sought emails between the former Oklahoma Attorney General (now EPA Administrator) Scott Pruitt and major coal, oil, and gas companies.
Pruitt stonewalled CMD, but a court ordered that the emails must be disclosed. CMD is publishing them all online, which can be accessed at the bottom of the page. Pruitt’s emails with polluters became a major issue during his Senate confirmation process to be head of the EPA as he repeatedly refused to answer questions about those ties.
CMD has received a partial response to just one of the nine outstanding record requests, with more emails to be released shortly as ordered by the court. Here are some of the major findings from the thousands of Pruitt emails that have been released so far.
Devon meeting to discuss attorneys general and industry clearinghouse
In 2013, Devon Energy organized a meeting between Scott Pruitt, Leonard Leo of the Federalist Society and coal industry lawyer Paul Seby to plan the creation of a “clearinghouse” that would “assist AGs in addressing federalism issues.” Melissa Houston, then Pruitt’s chief of staff emailed Devon Energy saying “this will be an amazing resource for the AGs and for industry.”
AFPM asking Pruitt for help on Renewable Fuel Standard program and ozone limits
The oil and gas lobby group American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) coordinated opposition in 2013 to both the Renewable Fuel Standard Program and ozone limits with Pruitt’s office. While AFPM was making its own case against the RFS with the American Petroleum Institute, it provided Pruitt with a template language for an Oklahoma petition, noting “this argument is more credible coming from a State.”
Devon Energy helping draft Pruitt letter to EPA on methane emissions
An email from Pruitt’s deputy solicitor general sought out advice from Devon Energy executives about a letter to be sent to the EPA regarding the regulation of methane emissions. The Devon Energy executive replied with suggestions, including some that were “improvements from one of our experts.”
Hunton & Williams drafting talking points and white paper for Pruitt
A Lobbyist from the law firm Hunton & Williams, which represents major utility companies, sent Pruitt’s deputy solicitor general a white paper and talking points suggesting that the staffer should “cut and paste” from when encouraging other states to file comments on an EPA protection aimed at addressing air pollution.
Americans for Prosperity praising Pruitt for his anti-environmental work
This email was sent by the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity to Pruitt’s communications director praising him for working to block EPA environmental protections.
Utility industry lobby group asks Pruitt for supportive op-ed, provides “cut and paste” language
Email correspondence between a representative from the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), a powerful utility lobby group. EEI’s John Kinsman asked Pruitt’s staff to write an op-ed in the Journal of the Air and Waste Management Association on behalf of Oklahoma Gas and Electric (which contributed thousands to Pruitt’s AG campaigns). Kinsman was so eager to get the op-ed sign, he urged the Pruitt staffer to be “cut and paste” from previous editorials and court filings.
The Scott Pruitt Emails
The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) filed nine public record requests between 2015 and 2017 seeking Scott Pruitt’s emails during his time as Attorney General of Oklahoma. No pages of records were released until after CMD filed a lawsuit on February 7, 2017. Thousands of emails have now been released, but many more are being withheld and are subject to the lawsuit.
On February 10, 2017, CMD received a response from Scott Pruitt’s office that purported to be a full response to just one of these requests, which had been submitted by CMD on January 5, 2015. Though Pruitt’s office had previously twice stated that more than 3,000 emails had been identified under this request, just 411 emails were provided. These emails are available below titled “Set A.”
After reviewing the 411 emails, CMD identified 27 that were omitted but which had previously been provided to the New York Times in 2014. These emails should have also been provided in Pruitt’s response to CMD, but they were not. On February 14, 2017 CMD filed a “status report” with that court that detailed these missing emails and concerns regarding the withholding of thousands of other emails.
In response to CMD’s lawsuit, a court in Oklahoma ordered that the remaining emails must be produced. In her ruling, the judge criticized Pruitt’s office for its “abject failure” to abide by the Oklahoma Open Records Act. On February 20, 2017, 7,564 pages of further emails were provided. These emails are available below titled “Set B.”
Despite this, hundreds of emails are still being withheld from CMD’s January 5, 2017 request. The court will soon review any claims of exemption for withholding these emails and more will likely then be released.
The court has ordered that emails and other records from five other requests CMD filed between November 2015 and August 2016 must be released by March 3, 2017. No deadline has been yet set for a further three outstanding requests.