California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed a Freedom of Information Act request Friday with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to compel it to turn over documents on its administrator, Scott Pruitt, and potential conflicts of interest with his past ties to the fossil fuel industry.
As Oklahoma’s top law enforcement official, Pruitt repeatedly sued the EPA, and raised campaign money from oil and gas interests to help finance those lawsuits and advance his political career. Becerra wants Pruitt and the EPA, the agency he is now policing, to prove the former Oklahoma attorney general and the Trump administration are complying with federal ethics laws that require him to acknowledge potential conflicts of interest.
In some cases, Pruitt could be disqualified or be required to recuse himself from issues in his current job because of actions he took as Oklahoma attorney general, Becerra indicated in the FIOA request. In other cases, he may require a waiver to perform his job duties.
“The public has a right to know whether Administrator Pruitt and EPA are complying with federal ethics laws,” Becerra said in a statement. “Mr. Pruitt’s numerous conflicts of interest merit close examination now that he has taken a direct role in initiating reviews of numerous EPA regulations he sought to undo through litigation in his previous role.”
Becerra’s letter detailed 32 separate information requests, including emails, written statements and documents. Among other things, he is asking for ethics agreements entered into by Pruitt, waivers or restrictions applied to Pruitt and any communications regarding federal review environmental regulations.
The FOIA request mentions federal moves to review and possibly scale back environmental regulations aimed at reducing greenhouse gases. President Donald Trump and his administration have cast doubt on the need for increased regulations on fuel-burning power plants, vehicle fuel standards and the oil and gas industry as a whole.
“Administrator Pruitt has acknowledged the he will need to seek authorization to participate personally or substantially in some matters,” Becerra’s office said in a news release. “The documents requested will shed light on whether he has done so, and whether any waivers that have been granted are sufficiently supported and comply with the law.”
Emails released by the Oklahoma attorney general’s office following his confirmation, as a result of a lawsuit brought by the left-leaning Center for Media and Democracy, revealed ties between Pruitt and oil and gas interests, and the billionaire Koch brothers.
A spokesman for the EPA said the agency was aware of Becerra’s request, but offered no immediate comment.
Angela Hart: 916-326-5528, @ahartreports