The new administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, closely worked with major oil and gas companies, electric utilities, and political groups to undo environmental regulations, according to more than 7,000 pages of emails made public today. Pruitt now leads the government agency responsible for protecting the environment and regulating pollution.
Pruitt was ordered to release the emails by an Oklahoma judge, in response to a lawsuit by the Center for Media and Democracy. Democrats had urged the Senate Republican majority leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky to delay Pruitt’s confirmation hearing until after the emails were released, but with no success. Pruitt was confirmed as head of the EPA just five days ago.
“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,” Nick Surgey, research director at the Center for Media and Democracy, said in a statement. “And our work doesn’t stop here – we will keep fighting until all of the public records involving Pruitt’s dealings with energy corporations are released.” More emails from the Oklahoma Attorney General office are expected to be released on February 27th.
Pruitt has been one of the most contentious of President Donald Trump’s nominees. As Oklahoma’s attorney general, he made a name for himself for bringing more than a dozen lawsuits against the EPA, meant to roll back major environmental rules. In these lawsuits, he often worked in coordination with several fossil fuel and electric utility companies, such as Devon Energy and American Electric Power. As EPA administrator, he will now be responsible for enforcing those environmental regulations he tried to undo and regulate the companies he worked with.
“Thank you to your respective bosses and all they are doing to push back against President Obama’s EPA and its axis with liberal environmental groups to increase energy costs for Oklahomans and American families across the states,” said one 2013 email sent to Pruitt by Matt Ball, an executive at the nonprofit group Americans for Prosperity, according to The New York Times. That nonprofit has ties with Charles and David Koch, the billionaire brothers who’ve worked to undo federal regulations in the energy sector for years.
Yesterday, during his first speech to the EPA, Pruitt told around 100 EPA employees that the agency will be “pro-energy and jobs and pro-environment.” He also said he wants to give much authority for environmental protection back to the states. In his first interview as the head of the EPA with The Wall Street Journal, Pruitt said he expects to roll back the Clean Power Plan, Obama’s landmark environmental policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and meet the goals set under the Paris agreement.
Pruitt has already received strong opposition from several EPA employees now under his control. One current EPA staffer, who requested anonymity, told Mother Jones about the fear felt at the agency. The EPA official also vowed resistance. “Despite the long odds we face, we will never stop working to protect every person's right to have a healthy place to live, work, and play,” the employee told Mother Jones. “And if the new administrator casts me out of the job I love, I will not stop working toward the principles that have always animated my life. This is who I am, and that will never change. I stand in solidarity with brothers and sisters that work to protect human rights, human health, and the environment here in the US and all over the world. The struggle continues.”
Today’s emails likely won’t cause Pruitt many problems, however, according to the New York Times. In fact, the emails confirm what was already revealed by emails and documents disclosed to the Times in 2014. At that time, the newspaper published a story about Pruitt’s connection with energy companies, in its fight against Obama’s regulation.