Scott Pruitt’s web of fundraising and lawsuits
Pruitt repeatedly sued EPA and took contributions from co-litigators
As Oklahoma Attorney General, Scott Pruitt has sued 14 times to block clean air and water safeguards from EPA, the agency he now leads. New research shows that in every suit except one, at least one of Pruitt’s co-litigators contributed to Pruitt’s campaign or a political action committee affiliated with Pruitt – directly, or via an employee or member.
These co-litigators include some of the biggest polluters in the nation who stand to gain the most by blocking bedrock clean air and clean water safeguards.
In the remaining instance, Oklahoma sued on its own and had no co-litigators. Even in this instance, the outside counsel at the private law firm representing the state in the case – hired by Pruitt – contributed money to a Pruitt-affiliated political action committee.
In many instances, co-litigators also contributed to the Republican Attorney General Association, an organization that Pruitt turned into a political powerhouse as past chairman, raising money from energy industry interests at the same time he submitted their comments to EPA, nearly word for word, on Attorney General letterhead.
We already know Pruitt is a staunch opponent of safeguards that protect all Americans from mercury, arsenic and smog pollution – but we are learning more every day about his tight alliance with polluting industries.
Here are the 14 lawsuits:
1. Soot and smog pollution that crosses state borders
- Pruitt sued to challenge implementation of the Cross State Air Pollution Rule – after the U.S. Supreme Court had already upheld the standard.
- This program addresses dangerous soot and smog pollution that drifts across state lines and causes asthma attacks and premature death. Through this program, downwind states are protected from pollution from out-of-state sources that the states cannot address on their own.
- EPA estimates that every year these protections save up to 34,000 lives and yield up to $280 billion in benefits – at a cost of under $1 billion.
- This program has a long, bi-partisan history. An earlier program was developed under the George W. Bush Administration – which called it the Clean Air Interstate Rule – but the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected that rule’s approach as insufficiently protective. In issuing a revised standard, EPA was carrying out its duty to address this dangerous pollution.
- Pruitt and his affiliated political action committees have received campaign contributions from the following co-litigators: Murray Energy, Peabody Energy and Southern Company.
- co-litigators Murray Energy, National Mining Association and a Peabody Energy subsidiary have also contributed to the Republican Attorneys General Association, of which Pruitt is past chairman.
- Pruitt resubmitted to EPA, after a one-page cover letter, the comments of a for-profit utility on implementation aspects of this program. In a separate comment letter related to implementation of this program, Pruitt incorporated by reference comments submitted by the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (see page 1).
2. and 3. Safeguards limiting mercury and air toxic pollution
- Pruitt sued to block a standard that helps protect communities from mercury and toxic air pollution from power plant smokestacks. These basic protections were left intact after this first lawsuit – so Pruitt is suing a second time to dismantle this safeguard, even though virtually all power plants nationwide have already achieved the standard.
- This program also has a long, bi-partisan history. Limits on mercury from power plant smokestacks were first developed under the George W. Bush Administration’s Clean Air Mercury Rule, but the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected its approach as insufficiently protective. In issuing a revised standard, EPA was following its longstanding duty to address this harmful pollution.
- Mercury is widely known as a dangerous neurotoxin. The American Academy of Pediatrics notes, “The developing fetus and young children” are particularly at risk from mercury exposure because brain maturation “can be disturbed by the presence of mercury.”
- Yet Pruitt questions the danger of mercury pollution – claiming that “the record does not support EPA’s findings that mercury . . . pose[s] public health hazards.”
- Mercury from coal plant smokestacks contributes to both localized pollution hot spots and contamination farther afield. Mercury fish contamination is extensive and spans lakes and rivers across all regions of the U.S. Nationwide standards are essential to protect against mercury pollution from coal plant smokestacks, the source of half of our nation’s mercury emissions.
- Pruitt received campaign donations from co-litigators in the first lawsuit: Peabody Energy and Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association. Pruitt and his affiliated political action committees have also received campaign contributions from co-litigators in the second lawsuit: Murray Energy and Southern Company.
- Similarly, the Republican Attorneys General Association has received contributions from co-litigators in the first suit: National Mining Association and a Peabody Energy subsidiary. The Republican Attorneys General Association has also received contributions from co-litigators in the second lawsuit: Murray Energy and a Southern Company subsidiary.
4. National public health standards for smog pollution
- Pruitt sued to oppose EPA’s latest update to its national ambient air standard for ground-level ozone (smog) pollution. This litigation is ongoing.
- Ozone at ground level is intensely damaging, worsening asthma and inducing premature deaths. The American Lung Association calls it “one of the most dangerous” pollutants.
- The latest American Lung Association report gave all surveyed Oklahoma counties an “F” for ozone problems and found that the number of high ozone days had increased in most counties as compared with 2010-2012.
- Since 1970, health-based national air quality standards have been a foundational aspect of the Clean Air Act – our nation’s historic law protecting against air pollutants that threaten public health. A 2001 unanimous U.S. Supreme Court decision authored by Justice Antonin Scalia affirmed the standards’ health-based approach.
- Pruitt and his affiliated political action committees have received campaign contributions from co-litigators Murray Energy, American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers and a subsidiary of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
- Pruitt’s co-litigators have also contributed to the Republican Attorneys General Association: American Petroleum Institute, Murray Energy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers.
5. Pollution released during facility startup, shutdown or malfunction
- Pruitt’s office sued EPA over safeguards that protect against unlimited air pollution when polluting facilities start up, shut down or malfunction.
- The updated policy that Pruitt opposes was issued after the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit criticized and barred EPA’s previous approach.
- Pruitt has received campaign contributions from co-litigator Southern Company.
- A subsidiary of co-litigator Southern Company contributed to the Republican Attorneys General Association.
6. Protecting scenic vistas in iconic national parks and wildernesses
- Pruitt unsuccessfully sued EPA to block a plan addressing Oklahoma air pollution that causes regional haze pollution in scenic areas. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Oklahoma’s petition, and the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Oklahoma’s request for an appeal.
- The plan that Pruitt opposed is part of a longstanding program meant to ensure that air in and around America’s national parks and wildernesses is clear. This program began because in our nation’s scenic areas, visibility has been substantially reduced by air pollution. Thanks to these bipartisan Clean Air Act protections, we are making progress in lifting the shroud of haze in our national parks.
- Pruitt furthered this lawsuit together with Oklahoma Gas & Electric, a for-profit utility that contributed to his campaign; notably, Pruitt filed a new appeal four days after the company’s employees, including the CEO, threw a fundraiser for his campaign.
7. Clean air standards for oil and gas pollution
- Pruitt sued to oppose EPA’s standards limiting pollution from new, modified and reconstructed oil and gas facilities. This litigation is ongoing.
- These standards curb emissions of methane, smog-forming volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and, as a co-benefit, reduce toxic air pollutants such as benzene.
- Because many of the standards reduce pollution by leveraging technologies that capture gas rather than wasting it, they also conserve a valuable domestic energy resource.
- Given these cross-cutting benefits, strong majorities of Americans support standards to minimize methane emissions from the oil and gas sector.
- Pruitt and his affiliated political action committees have received campaign donations from Devon Energy (member of co-litigator American Petroleum Institute – API), ExxonMobil (member of API) and Chesapeake Energy (member of API).
- co-litigator American Petroleum Institute has also contributed to the Republican Attorneys General Association.
8. Greenhouse gases are a danger to health and the environment
- Pruitt unsuccessfully continued Oklahoma’s legal challenge to EPA’s 2009 science-based finding that greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare.
- This finding detailed the extensive scientific research on dangerous impacts from climate change: on human health, on extreme weather events, on community welfare.
- The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit unanimously rejected this suit and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review that court’s decision.
- Pruitt’s campaigns have received contributions from co-litigators Alpha Natural Resources, Peabody Energy and a subsidiary of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
- co-litigators American Petroleum Institute, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Mining Association, National Association of Home Builders, as well as a Peabody Energy subsidiary, have also contributed to the Republican Attorneys General Association.
9. to 12. Clean Power Plan
- The Clean Power Plan establishes common-sense targets to gradually reduce carbon pollution from existing power plants, our nation’s largest source of this pollution.
- Pruitt unsuccessfully represented Oklahoma in three separate suits against the Clean Power Plan before the rule was even published. All these suits were summarily rejected as premature:
- A premature lawsuit against the Clean Power Plan proposed rule in the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
- A subsequent premature lawsuit against the proposed rule filed in Oklahoma federal district court, and then appealed to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals
- A premature lawsuit against the not-yet-published final rule in the D.C. Circuit Court
- Pruitt then sued against the Clean Power Plan a fourth time, in current ongoing litigation.
- When fully implemented, the Clean Power Plan will prevent an estimated 3,600 premature deaths and 90,000 asthma attacks every year – while the average American family will save about $7 on their monthly electric bill.
- Pruitt and his affiliated political action committees have received campaign contributions from Murray Energy and Peabody Energy, which have been co-litigators in the first premature D.C. Circuit case, the second premature D.C. Circuit case and the ongoing litigation.
- Murray Energy and a Peabody Energy subsidiary have also contributed to the Republican Attorneys General Association.
- When Oklahoma filed its case in Oklahoma federal court, it filed alone, with no co-litigators. However, in that instance, David Rivkin, the outside counsel at the private law firm representing the state in the case – hired by Pruitt – contributed money to a Pruitt-affiliated political action committee.
13. Carbon pollution standards for new power plants
- Pruitt is suing to block carbon pollution standards for new, modified and reconstructed power plants.
- These safeguards would, for the first time, establish a nationwide standard protecting against carbon pollution from new power plants. These standards are not expected to have notable costs and are not projected to impact electricity prices or reliability.
- Pruitt and his affiliated political action committees have received contributions from co-litigators Murray Energy, Southern Company, Peabody Energy, American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, and Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association.
- Co-litigators Murray Energy, American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, a Peabody Energy subsidiary and a Southern Company subsidiary have also contributed to the Republican Attorneys General Association.
14. Clean Water Rule
- Challenges to the Clean Water Rule are proceeding in many forums. Pruitt has sued, or is suing, EPA in several different federal courts including the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.
- The Clean Water Rule protects streams and wetlands that form the foundation of the nation’s water resources. The Clean Water Rule ensures that waters protected under the Clean Water Act are more precisely defined and more predictably determined.
- The Clean Water Rule responds to requests from members of Congress, developers, farmers, state and local governments, and energy companies to clarify the process of identifying waters protected under the Clean Water Act.
- A Pruitt-affiliated political action committee has received campaign donations from co-litigator Murray Energy.
- Pruitt’s co-litigators in the Sixth Circuit have also contributed to the Republican Attorneys General Association: National Association of Home Builders, National Mining Association, Murray Energy.
Keith Gaby, email@example.com, (202) 572-3336