WASHINGTON – Oklahoma environmental advocates and attorneys met yesterday with members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee to strongly refute Scott Pruitt’s claims that he advanced pollution cleanup efforts as the state’s attorney general.
After Pruitt’s confirmation hearing to become administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency last week, Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware, the committee’s highest-ranking Democrat, convened a panel discussion to further examine Pruitt’s record and qualifications. Carper asked panelists to name an instance when, as attorney general, Pruitt acted on behalf of the environment. Longtime Oklahoma environmental attorney Jason Aamodt, was unaware of any such examples.
“I’ve represented people in Oklahoma exclusively on environmental issues for 20 years,” said Aamodt. “I teach at the Tulsa Law School; I teach for Oklahoma State University. I’m intimately familiar with most of the environmental cases going on in Oklahoma. They’re either being prosecuted by me, or by one of my friends, or by somebody I know.”
“I’m unaware of any environmental case that the attorney general has prosecuted that was done in the public interest of protecting the environment,” he said.
Kelly Hunter Foster, who spent more than 10 years as an assistant attorney general in the state’s environmental protection unit, echoed Aamodt.
“I am not aware of any cases [Pruitt] has done that would protect the environment,” said Hunter Foster, now a senior attorney with the Waterkeeper Alliance.
When Pruitt was asked during his confirmation hearing to provide examples of times when he, as attorney general, acted on behalf the environment and public health, he cited an initiative to clean up the Illinois River from upstream poultry pollution. But this effort, as EWG documented in a recent investigation, was the work of his predecessor, former attorney general Drew Edmondson.
Instead, Pruitt implemented tactics that have delayed the cleanup of the protected waterway, and cut the annual budget for the environmental protection unit from more than $500,000 under Edmondson to zero, where it remains today.
After remarks by the panelists, Carper and seven of his committee colleagues sent Pruitt a letter calling on him to provide more information about his record in Oklahoma and address troubling remarks he made at his confirmation hearing. The letter said:
Your evasions during last week’s confirmation hearing were troubling and left us, and many other Americans, concerned. Accordingly, we sent you questions for the record (QFRs) to give you another opportunity to provide information we consider essential to fulfilling our constitutional duty to provide advice and consent. Complete and direct answers to our questions, particularly to those covering your activities as Oklahoma’s Attorney General, give you the opportunity to set the record straight about your apparent conflicts of interest and questionable understanding of science.
The letter was signed by Sens. Carper, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Edward Markey of Massachusetts and Tammy Duckworth of Illinois.