EWG Calls on Justice Department to Investigate Pruitt’s Potentially Misleading Statements to Senate Environment Panel

WASHINGTON – The Environmental Working Group urged the Department of Justice today to investigate whether Scott Pruitt, President Trump’s nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency, made false or misleading statements at his confirmation hearing in violation of federal law.

A thorough review by EWG and others of Pruitt’s comments before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee against his actual record as Oklahoma attorney general indicates he may have made a number of potentially misleading statements.  

“We urge the Department of Justice to carefully review the testimony and responses provided by Mr. Pruitt to the Committee to determine whether he knowingly and willfully made false or misleading statements or representations,” EWG President Ken Cook wrote to the department’s Public Integrity Section.

In the letter, EWG cited a number of examples in which Pruitt may have willfully provided false and/or misleading statements in both his oral and written comments to the Senate committee, violating Sec. 1001 of Chapter 47 of Title 18 of U.S. Code. Examples cited include:

  • In his testimony, Pruitt denied he had previously said the EPA should not regulate mercury emissions. In fact, Pruitt had argued in a 2012 legal filing that the EPA violated the law by regulating mercury and “the record does not support EPA’s findings that mercury ... pose[s] public health hazards.”
  • In response to questions for the record, Pruitt said he had “personally and substantially” participated in 10 legal actions against the EPA. In fact, by Pruitt’s own count the office of the Oklahoma attorney general was a party to 17 legal actions against the EPA and signed amicus briefs in nine other suits.
  • Pruitt testified that a 2013 agreement subjected Arkansas polluters to Oklahoma’s water quality standard for the Illinois River for the first time. In fact, Arkansas polluters have been subject to Oklahoma’s standard since 2003.
  • Pruitt testified that he filed “briefs in support of the court making a decision” in pending litigation against poultry companies. In fact, he did not take such actions to encourage resolution of pending litigation against poultry companies.
  • Pruitt testified that the Oklahoma attorney general has limited authority to bring actions against polluters. In fact, under Oklahoma law, the attorney general has broad authority to prosecute polluters.
  • Pruitt referenced a list of more than a dozen cases as evidence that he initiated environmental enforcement actions as Oklahoma’s attorney general. In fact, nearly all of the actions on the list were initiated by his predecessor.
  • In particular, Pruitt cited a consent decree with Mahard egg farm as “something we actually initiated.” In fact, the investigation and consent decree were initiated by his predecessor and merely finalized by Pruitt.

“Willfully providing misleading and outright false statements to Congress is illegal and must be taken seriously,” Cook said in a separate statement. “Scott Pruitt is interviewing for one of the most important positions in the federal government, so it is imperative the full Senate knows whether or not he purposely misled them before they’re asked to vote to install him as EPA administrator.”

Find the full text of EWG’s letter to the DOJ here.

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