- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 21, 2017

New EPA administrator Scott Pruitt on Tuesday delivered the first batch of roughly 2,600 emails to a watchdog group that’s sought them for two years, adding new fuel to the debate over whether he’s too closely tied to the oil-and-gas industry.

The Center for Media and Democracy said they’ve been informed the Oklahoma attorney general’s office, which Mr. Pruitt led before taking the helm at the EPA, will turn over at least some of the messages Tuesday night. It’s unclear exactly how many will be released.

“Americans deserve to know what Pruitt has worked so hard to conceal throughout his confirmation process. As soon as we receive the documents, we will take a close look and make them available to the public as soon as possible,” Nick Surgey, research director for the center, said in a statement Tuesday night.

He added that other messages are being submitted to a state judge for further review

Critics believe the emails will show that Mr. Pruitt colluded with oil-and-gas companies while Oklahoma attorney general, and that he essentially did their bidding in attempts to roll back federal regulations.

They point to a 2011 letter sent by Mr. Pruitt to the EPA, raising questions about the agency’s conclusions about natural gas emissions. The majority of the language in the letter was lifted directly from documents written by Devon Energy, an Oklahoma oil company.

Mr. Pruitt hasn’t denied using the company’s language, but said it was his job as Oklahoma attorney general to advocate on behalf of his state’s interests, including the interests of the oil-and-gas industry.

The Center for Media and Democracy first filed open-records requests to obtain the emails two years ago, but those requests were ignored. It was only last week, on the eve of Mr. Pruitt’s confirmation vote to lead the EPA, that an Oklahoma judge ordered the state attorney general’s office to turn over the documents.

Democratic attempts to stall Mr. Pruitt’s confirmation vote until after the email release were unsuccessful.

In its own statement, the Oklahoma attorney general’s office blasted the alleged political motivations of those seeking the emails, but nevertheless said they will comply with the judge’s order.

“The office went above and beyond what is required under the Open Records Act and produced thousands of additional documents that, but for the court’s order, would typically be considered records outside the scope of the act,” Lincoln Ferguson, press secretary for the attorney general’s office, said in a statement. “This broad disclosure should provide affirmation that, despite politically motivated allegations, the office of attorney general remains fully committed to the letter and spirit of the Open Records Act.”

• Ben Wolfgang can be reached at bwolfgang@washingtontimes.com.

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