As Oklahoma attorney general, Scott Pruitt met regularly with the state’s oil and gas representatives, famously going so far as to send a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency on behalf of one company.
Now that Pruitt is at the head of EPA — tasked with protecting clean air and water on behalf of the entire country — his official schedule shows that his door remains open to the fossil fuel industry.
According to newly released records, Pruitt regularly met with oil and gas representatives in his first two months as EPA administrator. For instance, on March 20, Pruitt met with the president and chairman of BP. The following day, he met with the president and the chairman and CEO of Chevron.
The tone of the meetings appear more than cordial — congratulatory, even.
After Pruitt announced he was rescinding an information request for methane leak data from oil and gas producers, he had a meeting of “appreciation” with an executive from the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association. At another meeting with BHP Billiton, the subject was “thank for leadership, focus on methane.”
At the time, Pruitt specifically said he rescinded the information request after hearing from the industry.
Over this same period, the EPA administrator did not meet with any environmental groups. Pruitt’s schedule at the EPA was released Thursday by E&E News, an energy and environment trade publication that submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the documents. E&E News notes that on Earth Day (April 22), the EPA put out a press release saying that Pruitt had met with the Nature Conservancy and the Audubon Society. That date range was not covered in the FOIA response.
Meanwhile, journalists and watchdog groups are still unearthing exactly how close Pruitt was to the oil and gas industry while he served as Oklahoma’s chief litigator. On Friday, 4,000 pages of records were released to the Associated Press.
“They include schedules and lists of speaking engagements from the years before Pruitt became the nation’s top environmental watchdog, recounting dozens of meetings between Pruitt, members of his staff, and executives and lobbyists from the coal, oil and gas industries,” the AP reports.
Pruitt has been dogged with questions about his emails since before he came to Washington. In 2014, the New York Times broke a story showing that Pruitt had taken a letter written by Devon Energy lawyers and sent it to the EPA on state letterhead, essentially acting as an official voice for his state’s biggest polluters.
With that red flag waving, Senate Democrats sought to unearth more of Pruitt’s emails before he was confirmed as EPA administrator. They failed, but just weeks after his confirmation, emails came to light showing that Pruitt had lied during his confirmation testimony when he denied that he used a personal email address for work.
This week, more details emerged, as it became clear that Pruitt had testified that he only had one official email account. He had at least two as Oklahoma attorney general.
Critics, including the Center for Media and Democracy, which has been seeking greater disclosure from the Oklahoma attorney general’s office for years, say this pattern of obfuscation and non-disclosure is concerning.
“We have been filing dozens of FOIA requests with EPA under Pruitt, with very few responses so far. It is probably a little early to know for sure if this represents a change, but the signs so far are not positive,” Center for Media and Democracy’s Nick Surgey told ThinkProgress in an email. “Because of Pruitt’s poor record on access to records in Oklahoma, there is real concern from many advocates and journalists that the EPA is going to become less transparent.”