Oklahoma is fighting the release of additional emails from Scott Pruitt, the state’s former attorney general and the recently installed EPA administrator, setting up a court battle next week with a watchdog group that argues the documents show collusion with oil and gas companies.
On the heels of a massive email dump earlier this week, Oklahoma officials Thursday night filed an appeal and a motion for an emergency stay with the state’s Supreme Court, seeking to keep another batch of messages under wraps. The state will clash with the watchdog group the Center for Media and Democracy in Oklahoma court Tuesday.
“This maneuver is just more stonewalling by Team Pruitt to prevent the American people from seeing public records of national interest that should have been turned over prior to Pruitt’s confirmation as head of the EPA,” said Lisa Graves, the Center’s executive director. “Pruitt’s office had many months to provide his emails with corporate polluters, but is now complaining they don’t have enough time.”
The emails released earlier this week showed close coordination between Mr. Pruitt’s office and top energy companies in Oklahoma. The two sides worked closely on a legal strategy to fight Obama-era energy regulations, and co-wrote legal challenges to EPA rules related to fracking and other issues.
Mr. Pruitt has admitted to working on behalf of the oil and gas sector, but said such actions were within his duties as Oklahoma attorney general. He told lawmakers last month he had a duty to stand up for his state’s industries when they were unfairly targeted by the federal government.
Democrats tried to stall last week’s confirmation vote on Mr. Pruitt to lead the EPA until all the emails were made public, but their effort failed. He was confirmed by a 52-46 vote.
In its court filing, the Oklahoma attorney general’s office argues that it’s both impractical and unfair to prioritize the Pruitt emails over other open-records request the state is sorting through.
“Because the challenged injunction presents a clear violation of defendant’s due process rights, is an abuse of discretion, and imposes highly onerous burdens on defendant, this court should stay the order of the court below until this appeal can be fully litigated on the merits,” the attorney general’s litigation division said.
More than 7,500 pages of emails were released earlier this week. If Oklahoma fails in court, the next batch of documents will be released March 3.
• Ben Wolfgang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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