Oklahoma judge holds hearing on whether EPA nominee violated transparency law

Joshua Roberts | Reuters

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt testifies before a Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works confirmation hearing on his nomination to be administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, January 18, 2017.

An Oklahoma County District Court judge is holding a hearing on Thursday on whether President Donald Trump's nominee to lead the EPA violated a state transparency law and could order his office to turn over thousands of documents to a watchdog group.

The hearing is the latest turn in a lawsuit against Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt brought by the Center for Media and Democracy earlier this month. CMD charges Pruitt violated the Oklahoma Open Records Act for declining to make public official emails the group has requested since 2015.

CMD has sought correspondences between Pruitt's office and Koch Industries, other mining and drilling companies, and the Republican Attorneys General Association, which Pruitt chaired. As of Thursday's hearing, the office had turned over 411 of the more than 3,000 emails CMD requested, according to the group.

Among the emails CMD says it has not received is a correspondence featured prominently in a Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times story. The communication showed Pruitt's office signed a letter, drafted by lawyers for Devon Energy, that accused federal regulators of overstating the amount of pollution caused by new natural gas wells.

The Times article detailed Pruitt's leading role in an effort by Republican attorneys general to challenge Obama-era regulations in partnership with corporate interests.

Thursday's hearing before Judge Aletia Haynes Timmons of the District Court of Oklahoma County comes ahead of Pruitt's confirmation to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, which is expected to take place on Friday. Judge Timmons earlier granted an expedited hearing.

Democratic members of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works boycotted a vote to move forward Pruitt's confirmation and have since sought to stall a vote in the full chamber. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse has pointed to at least 52 outstanding Open Records Act requests directed to the Oklahoma attorney general's office as one reason for Democratic opposition.

Republican senators and two Democrats voted to end debate on Pruitt's nomination.

Since his nomination, Pruitt has attracted widespread condemnation from environmentalists and Democrats for suing the EPA multiple times and questioning the science behind climate change. His calls for states to take more control over energy industry regulation has drawn support among conservatives and corporate interests.


Get the latest news delivered to your inbox

Follow us on social media networks