Republicans have confirmed the appointment of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency without a full vetting of his well-known and established ties to the oil and gas industry.
— ALEC Exposed (@ALECexposed) February 19, 2017
That might seem like old and expected news by now, but Pruitt has just been ordered to release hundreds of emails based on an open records request submitted about two years ago by the Center for Media and Democracy. Pruitt had stonewalled on the request, but now a local judge has ordered him to turn over the information.
Perhaps, it might seem redundant to further establish that Pruitt, as the state’s attorney general, served the interests of the oil and gas industry far more than he worked to ensure the viability and extension of the state’s environmental health.
We already know, for example, that he sent a letter to the EPA during his tenure, arguing it had over estimated the amount of air pollution coming from oil and gas activity. The letter, as we found out, was actually written by staff of Devon Energy, a local Oklahoma City firm.
<pIt’s hard to imagine any deeper type of collusion that that. In addition, by presenting the letter as his own Pruitt committed a clear act of plagiarism, which in other places did cause a huge uproar. The local corporate media here didn’t really care about that aspect of the story.
We already know, too, that oil baron and billionaire Harold Hamm, the founder and chief executive officer of Continental Resources, another Oklahoma City oil and gas firm, served as an honorary chairman for Pruitt’s most recent campaign.
Pruitt’s connection to Hamm is especially telling since the oil mogul has been actively involved as a Republican in politics on the national level. Hamm served as an energy advisor for both presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Donald Trump. Hamm obviously promotes his own company’s vested interests in his political work by arguing for less federal environmental regulations of the oil and gas industry when, if fact, there’s a need for much more oversight.
But perhaps the most important aspect of Pruitt’s career as attorney general for Oklahomans is what he didn’t do. Pruitt has done nothing to try to stop the manmade fracking-induced earthquakes that plague our state and damage our property. Normally, attorney generals work on behalf on the state’s citizens to protect them from fraud and unscrupulous and damaging business practices. This wasn’t the case for Pruitt.
So, again, it might be redundant to prove once again Pruitt’s close ties to the oil and gas industry. What’s a few more jaw-dropping revelations about his service as a useful tool for the industry and his lack of concern for the environment or the property of hard-working Oklahomans? We know all that.
Yet Republicans may well have calculated wrongly here. What if the emails eventually reveal—and this is only speculation—some form of deep corruption that will render him unfit to serve as the EPA head? What happens then is yet another Trump-style debacle related to his cabinet picks, advisors and appointees. Of course, at this point in the Trump administration, the daily spectacle is becoming normalized. It would just be business as usual. These, however, are not normal times as we need to keep reminding ourselves.
Making the emails public are vastly important for the historical record. The larger issue, however, is that Pruitt’s appointment will likely set back environmental progress when it comes to climate change and regulations of carbon emissions, which accelerate global warming.
It’s not difficult to argue at this point, no matter what the emails reveal, that Pruitt’s actions as attorney general show that he cares virtually nothing about the environment and will use the EPA to increase the profits of oil and gas companies to the detriment of the planet. That’s what we call here “the Oklahoma standard” now arrived in Washington, D.C.