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Senators Ask Trump's EPA Pick To Disclose His Connections To Energy Industry

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, shown in 2013, is President-elect Donald Trump's pick to head the EPA. Pruitt's outspoken criticism of climate change and his close ties to the energy industry have raised concerns about his ability to lead the agency.
Sue Ogrocki

Democratic senators on the Environment and Public Works Committee say Donald Trump's choice to lead the Environmental Protection Agency should reveal his connections with energy insiders before his confirmation hearings get underway.

In the letter dated Tuesday, the senators told Scott Pruitt, currently Oklahoma's attorney general, they were concerned about his close ties to energy lobbyists and wanted him to disclose lists of donors who contributed to a nonprofit organization that took funds from a network connected to the Koch brothers.

Pruitt is an outspoken critic of climate change and has sued the Obama administration over the EPA's Clean Power Plan. The letter was signed by five Democrats plus independent Bernie Sanders.

"We have been troubled that as Attorney General of Oklahoma you used, nearly verbatim, industry talking points in official correspondence your office sent to EPA concerning EPA's estimation of methane pollution in your state," said the letter, signed by Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse, Ed Markey, Jeff Merkley, Cory Booker, Ben Cardin and Sanders.

"What that conduct says about your ability to lead EPA in a manner that is not beholden to special or secret interests is a subject we expect will receive a full airing during your confirmation hearing," the letter continued.

The letter goes on to request details about meetings and emails related to the Rule of Law Defense Fund, which Pruitt help establish to collect large donations from big oil and gas companies including Devon Energy.

Specifically the senators are seeking "a written explanation of the role you or any other person under your supervision has played" in the fund's founding and operation, a list of all expenditures greater than $1,000 made to the fund, and a list of meeting times, dates, locations, attendees and agenda items of its fundraisers.

"Before the Senate votes to confirm you to run EPA, it is important to provide a full disclosure of your relationship with the energy industry so we can determine how that will influence your ability to run the agency."

As NPR has reported, environmentalists are bracing for Pruitt's confirmation and are worried that he may try to curb much of the agency's power. Earlier this month the Trump transition team sent a 74-point questionnaire to employees at the Department of Energy asking for a list of employees and contractors who attended conferences on climate change.

The department later said it was refusing to provide the names to the transition team.

Read the full letter below:

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Brakkton Booker is a National Desk reporter based in Washington, DC.
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