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EPA Head's Emails Show Ties with Fossil Fuel Industry

  • VOA News

Scott Pruitt, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), speaks to employees of the agency in Washington, Feb. 21, 2017.

Scott Pruitt, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), speaks to employees of the agency in Washington, Feb. 21, 2017.

The Oklahoma Attorney General's office has released more than 7,500 emails between former state attorney general Scott Pruitt, now head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and members of the fossil fuel industry.

The emails were released under a court order sought by the Center for Media and Democracy activist group, which is among critics who say Pruitt is too closely tied to fossil fuel companies to make a suitable head of the EPA.

In a news release Wednesday, the activist group said, "Despite repeated attempts by Pruitt and the Oklahoma AG's office to stonewall . . . the public, we've won a major breakthrough in obtaining access to public records that shine a light on Pruitt's emails with polluters and their proxies."

Pruitt was confirmed as EPA chief last Friday in a 52-46 vote by the Republican-dominated Senate.

Among the emails are exchanges between Pruitt's office and Devon Energy, a major oil and gas company in Oklahoma, in which the two sides discuss and draft letters for Pruitt to send to federal officials to hold off new federal regulations that would complicate business for Devon.

The correspondence also shows that Pruitt was in high demand as a speaker for groups that work with corporations and state legislators to shape important pieces of legislation.

In addition to Devon Energy, another notable correspondent was Stuart Solomon, president of the Public Service Company of Oklahoma. Solomon sent an email thanking Pruitt for suing the EPA over a federal plan for compliance with Oklahoma's "regional haze" rule, which seeks to control air pollution.

"Your lawsuit against EPA," Solomon writes to Pruitt, "and your encouragement of our efforts to settle this issue in a way that benefits the state, were instrumental in giving us the time and the opportunity to develop a revised state plan."

Pruitt sued the EPA more than a dozen times in the eight years previous to Trump taking office. His lawsuits challenged the EPA's authority to regulate mercury pollution, smog, carbon emissions, and the quality of wetlands and other waters.

Environmental activists and Pruitt's critics in the Senate -- namely, Democrats -- had pushed to have the emails released before last week's confirmation hearings, as a last-minute effort to prevent his confirmation.

Devon Energy spokesman John Porretto said his company's correspondence with Pruitt was "consistent -- and proportionate -- with our commitment to engage in conversations with policymakers on a broad range of matters that promote jobs, economic growth and a robust domestic energy sector." He added, "It would be indefensible for us not to be engaged in these important issues."

Pruitt's office at the EPA has not yet commented on the release of the emails.

On Tuesday he addressed his EPA staff for the first time, saying "We as an agency and we as a nation can be both pro-energy and jobs, and pro-environment. We don't have to choose between the two."

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