The Oklahoma attorney general’s office has asked the state’s highest court to block the release of more emails between energy companies and Scott Pruitt, the state’s former top cop who became Environmental Protection Agency chief.
The initial batch of 7,564 documents made public on Tuesday by the Wisconsin-based watchdog group Center for Media and Democracy revealed a chummy relationship between Pruitt and oil and gas players whose pollution he’s now tasked with policing as the nation’s top environmental regulator. Now the office that Pruitt occupied until the Senate approved his confirmation last Friday has requested a stay on District Court of Oklahoma County Judge Aletia Haynes Timmons’ order to release another trove of documents by next week.
“This maneuver is just more stonewalling by Team Pruitt to prevent the American people from seeing public records of national interest that should have been turned over prior to Pruitt’s confirmation as head of the EPA,” said Lisa Graves, executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy, in a statement. “Pruitt’s office had many months to provide his emails with corporate polluters, but is now complaining they don’t have enough time.”
The Oklahoma Supreme Court will consider the stay request at a hearing scheduled for Tuesday. If the court declines the request, the attorney general’s office has until March 3 to release the documents.
President Donald Trump filled his Cabinet with climate science skeptics and fossil fuel allies, moves that riled environmental groups and Democrats. Still, Pruitt’s nomination stood apart. The former Oklahoma attorney general made his national reputation suing the EPA 13 times, repeatedly joining oil, gas and coal companies in legal challenges to rules meant to curb planet-warming greenhouse gases and pollution. In 2011, he signed his name to a three-page complaint to the EPA that lawyers at Devon Energy Corporation, an oil and gas giant in Oklahoma City, wrote under his letterhead.
“We must reject as a nation the false paradigm that if you’re pro-energy, you’re anti-environment or if you’re pro-environment, you’re anti-energy,” Pruitt said during his Senate confirmation hearing last month. “I reject that.”
But so far, he has failed to make his case to environmentalists who fear his tenure will be marked by budget cuts, weak enforcement and lax treatment for corporate polluters. During his first speech to agency staff on Tuesday, Pruitt mentioned a “toxic environment” just once. He was referring to the political rhetoric wielded by his critics.
He did not mention climate change or environmental destruction at all.