administration

Scott Pruitt Emails: Oil Lobbyists Drafted His Letters as Oklahoma's AG

  • Posted on: 23 February 2017
  • By: Connor Gibson

Scott Pruitt had a bad habit as Oklahoma's attorney general: he liked to have oil lobbyists ghostwrite his official government letters calling for limits to enforcing federal pollution laws.

A lawsuit initiated by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has forced thousands of Scott Pruitt's emails into the daylight, after Pruitt's office delayed CMD's records requests for two years. CMD says it anticipates more documents in the coming weeks, so we're in the middle of an unfolding saga. You may recall this 2014 New York Times article by Eric Lipton, which opened with this juicy hook:

The letter to the Environmental Protection Agency from Attorney General Scott Pruitt of Oklahoma carried a blunt accusation: Federal regulators were grossly overestimating the amount of air pollution caused by energy companies drilling new natural gas wells in his state.

But Mr. Pruitt left out one critical point. The three-page letter was written by lawyers for Devon Energy, one of Oklahoma’s biggest oil and gas companies, and was delivered to him by Devon’s chief of lobbying.

“Outstanding!” William F. Whitsitt, who at the time directed government relations at the company, said in a note to Mr. Pruitt’s office. The attorney general’s staff had taken Devon’s draft, copied it onto state government stationery with only a few word changes, and sent it to Washington with the attorney general’s signature. “The timing of the letter is great, given our meeting this Friday with both E.P.A. and the White House.”

Mr. Whitsitt then added, “Please pass along Devon’s thanks to Attorney General Pruitt.”

Now we know this was not an isolated incident. A new article in today's New York Times notes a similar favor Pruitt conducted at the request of Devon Energy lobbyists who were concerned about U.S. Bureau of Land Management rules that could restrict oil and gas extraction on public lands:

In a March 2013 letter to Mr. Pruitt’s office, William Whitsitt, then an executive vice president of Devon, referred to a letter his company had drafted for Mr. Pruitt to deliver, on Oklahoma state stationery, to Obama administration officials. Mr. Pruitt, meeting with White House officials, made the case that the rule, which would rein in planet-warming methane emissions, would be harmful to his state’s economy. His argument was taken directly from Mr. Whitsitt’s draft language.

“To follow up on my conversations with Attorney General Pruitt and you, I believe that a meeting — or perhaps more efficient, a conference call — with OIRA (the OMB Office of Information and Regulatory Analysis) on the BLM rule should be requested right away,” Mr. Whitsitt wrote. “The attached draft letter (or something like it that Scott is comfortable talking from and sending to the acting director to whom the letter is addressed) could be the basis for the meeting or call.”

The letter referred to the section of the White House Office of Management and Budget that coordinates regulations throughout the government.

Two weeks later Devon's Bill Whitsitt sent a celebratory email to Pruitt's staff, saying, "I just let General Pruitt know that BLM is going to propose a different version of its federal lands hydraulic fracturing rule thanks to input received – thanks for the help on this!" In the most striking new example, CMD revealed that Scott Pruitt's staff accepted draft letters from oil refinery lobbyists who wanted government help to attack renewable fuels and limits to smog pollution:

The oil and gas lobby group American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) coordinated opposition in 2013 to both the Renewable Fuel Standard Program and ozone limits with Pruitt’s office. While AFPM was making its own case against the RFS with the American Petroleum Institute, it provided Pruitt with a template language for an Oklahoma petition, noting “this argument is more credible coming from a State.” Later that year, Pruitt did file opposition to both the RFS and ozone limits.

I recommend this deep dive by DeSmog Blog if you want more specific examples of oil lobbyists running Pruitt's agenda.

The emails are peppered with examples of Pruitt and his staff coordinating with Koch Industries and its political surrogates, including a conference call with a Koch Industries lobbyist. Pruitt frequently worked with some of the most notable Koch-funded climate denier hubs, including Americans for Prosperity, the Federalist Society, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and the State Policy Network.

Pruitt was a keynote speaker for another well-known Koch venture in May, 2013, at a reception for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC's event was held at the Oklahoma City Petroleum Club, and Pruitt was told it would be sponsored by Koch Industries, Devon Energy, TransCanada, Continental Resources, and Phillips66. ALEC is the dating service for state legislators and corporate lobbyists, where Scott Pruitt has been a celebrity in recent years for leading other state attorneys general into attacks on the EPA.

The appointment to lead the EPA is a reward for Pruitt, who dutifully acted on behalf of fossil fuel companies as Oklahoma attorney general, and a consequence of the Republican administrations close ties to the oil and coal industries.

At Greenpeace, we invite our supporters to join us and resist this administration's handover of federal agencies to the industries who are supposed to be monitored by them. Scientific fact can't be yelled into submission. We'd rather not have the President learn that lesson by failing to protect Americans from the damage done by an unstable climate.

Just as Scott Pruitt's denial of fracking-related Oklahoma earthquakes did nothing to stop a surge in real earthquakes, putting a climate denier in charge of the EPA is not going to undo the global rise in average surface temperatures that lead to intense drought, flooding, storms, and sea level rise.

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Year 4 Obama Team Battles Climate Progress

  • Posted on: 4 December 2012
  • By: Connor Gibson

Written by Kyle Ash, crossposted from Greenpeace blogs.
 
We can say happy anniversary to the self-flattery and continual sabotage of the UN climate negotiations by President Obama's climate team. The tone remains the same. Exactly one year ago in the climate conference, Greenpeace distributed "Games and Puzzles for Durban" with this caricature above of the Deputy Special Envoy, Jonathan Pershing, who works for Special Envoy, Todd Stern. If Secretary Clinton retires, this political delegation would have to be reappointed.
 
We are well into the second and final week of the UN climate talks in Doha, but the outcome is still far from certain. Almost all major negotiation topics remain and we see little progress on overarching objectives. Environment Ministers and heads of delegation arrived this week to pick up the mantle. They must improve the negative trend.
 
In Durban, the global community, with the exception of the self-ostracized government of President Obama, agreed the Kyoto Protocol would continue. In part because the United States is not intervening, many countries generally expect success on this objective for Doha. Kyoto commitments end this year, so Kyoto Parties must agree on a new commitment period to start on January 1, 2013.
 
However, countries have yet to even sort out the length of the second period (five or eight years) and many have offered no pollution targets. Most of the 2020 targets so far are pitiful, such as the business-as-usual (BAU) 20% from the EU and the 0.5% from Australia.
 
Loopholes plague the integrity of Kyoto, but countries like Poland grapple to maintain the carbon market's large surplus of polluter 'rights' or AAUs (assigned amount units – dubbed hot air). This inspires despondence for the next conference, likely to be in Poland, particularly when the EU seems almost content with the Polish position.
 
The second over-arching objective was to finalize the negotiations that started in 2007 in Bali. Ideally, this was to end in a legally-binding agreement in Copenhagen, but the US killed that idea.
 
The Obama government's intransigence has postponed culmination every year since. All negotiation issues must either be agreed, or intentionally placed into a new negotiation track as was decided in Durban (the Ad-hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform – or ADP).
 
And we should see a work plan for the ADP leading to a legal agreement in 2015.
 
Despite having had three additional years to negotiate, almost every important issue is stuck between the will of countries demanding strong action and countries like the US that are visibly irritated at claims they offer almost nothing.
 
The US stands out as a culprit against progress on most issues and the self-righteous claims rattle hopes. The US delegation continues to argue US commitments on finance and pollution reductions are both sufficient and being met. On climate finance, the US continues to block debate on how to fill the Green Climate Fund, which is meant to support developing country efforts. We have seen an aversion to even agreeing to discuss how to increase ambition on emissions targets.
 
On issues where the US needs to invest little political capital at home, the US has blocked debate, for example, on how to establish common rules to account for pollution reductions. Common accounting rules are vital to understanding if collective efforts are enough. The US also remains a top blocker on negotiations to provide additional short-term financing for reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD). REDD stands to address 20% of global emissions.
 
It is not in the national interest of any country to allow catastrophic climate disruption. The hard bargaining, the specious evaluations of domestic progress, and the foot-dragging must stop.
 
We need to see a strong second phase of the Kyoto Protocol, and we need to see a workable plan that ensures a legally-binding agreement in 2015. Countries have only a few days left in Doha to show the world that there is still hope for a habitable planet.
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