California AG wants records on EPA’s Scott Pruitt and ties to oil and gas industry
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.
Los Angeles Times
California leaders to Sessions and Kelly: Legislature 'will use all available means' to defend state policies
California state leaders are asking U.S. Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly to identify the state's statutes or ordinances that they perceive as designed to prohibit or obstruct the enforcement of federal immigration law.
In a letter sent to the U.S. officials last week, a lawyer for Covington & Burling, a private firm hired by the state Senate and Assembly, said the Trump administration had repeatedly made unsupported accusations against California. In its "repeated attacks on states," the document stated, the administration appeared to disregard the balance of power between the states and the federal government.
The letter came in response to another letter from Sessions and Kelly, in which they admonished California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye. Cantil-Sakauye, a former prosecutor who rose through the judicial ranks as an appointee of Republican governors, spoke out against federal immigration agents she said had been “stalking” courthouses to make arrests.
The letter from Sessions and Kelly was “particularly troubling,” state leaders said in their response, when coupled with a January executive order from the Trump administration directing the U.S. attorney general to take action against any entity that prevents the enforcement of federal law.
“The administration’s unnecessary and repeated assaults on the policies of California, its counties, and its cities are deeply unsettling,“ the letter from the Legislature states. “Acting within our constitutional framework, California, its counties and its cities have enacted laws that best protect the rights and interests of their residents.”
Among the policies cited was the California Trust Act, which prevents law enforcement agencies from detaining immigrants longer than necessary for minor crimes, thereby helping federal immigration authorities take them into custody.
“If the Trump administration resorts to attempting to enforce its order against California, the Legislature will use all available means to defend the rights, values and safety of California,” the letter says.