OKLAHOMA CITY - A New York Times article published over the weekend accuses Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt of having a secret alliance with energy firms, like Devon Energy.
The article is titled "Energy Firms in Secretive Alliance with Attorneys General."
Pruitt is prominently featured in the picture right under the title and a large part of the article is dedicated to his relationship with Devon Energy.
Through open records requests, the New York Times obtained a letter written by Devon's attorneys, which was then taken to Pruitt.
The article states "The attorney general's staff had taken Devon's draft, copied it onto state government stationery with only a few word changes, and sent it to Washington with the attorney general's signature."
"I was stunned. It was a breathtaking breach of ethics as far as I was concerned, a real black eye for Oklahoma," said Arnold Hamilton, editor of the Oklahoma Observer, a monthly political publication that's been around for almost 50 years.
"He's supposed to be the people's lawyer. He's supposed to be a voice for the people, an independent voice. And instead, he comes across very much looking like a toadie for big money financial groups," said Hamilton.
The gist of the letter to the Environmental Protection Agency was that federal regulators were overestimating the amount of air pollution caused by energy companies drilling natural gas wells in Oklahoma.
Hamilton says if Pruitt believes that, he should've drafted his own letter.
"It is unusual for them, for somebody in the attorney general's position, to allow an outside, well-heeled, influence groups like that to write your letters for you," said Hamilton.
We sent repeated requests to Pruitt's office to respond to the cut and paste treatment of the Devon document, but they only sent a lengthy response focusing on the benefits of the energy industry.
The statement released by his office is as follows:
"The article did not accurately reflect what motivates my service and how we seek to make decisions on advancing these cases. Our responsibility is to protect Oklahoma’s interest when any federal agency seeks to displace the authority granted to the state under federal law. This administration has given us plenty of opportunity to litigate those matters in regards to energy, the environment, and health care and that is what is driving us, nothing more or nothing less."
“It should come as no surprise that I am working diligently with Oklahoma energy companies, the people of Oklahoma and the majority of attorneys general to fight the unlawful overreach of the EPA and other federal agencies. This administration’s effort to impose anti-fossil fuel policies are short-sighted, and unconstitutional and I will continue to fight the administration’s unconstitutional maneuvers at every step of the way. Oklahomans understand and appreciate the impact energy companies have on our state. The energy industry provides thousands of good-paying jobs and counts for hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenues that support education, public safety and roads and bridges in our state. The rules and regulations imposed unlawfully and inconsistently by the EPA have real-world implications for the citizens and state of Oklahoma. The EPA’s decision on Regional Haze, for instance, will cause the utility rates of Oklahomans to increase more than 20 percent all while only resulting in a miniscule improvement in air visibility. Others outside Oklahoma may not realize this important fact, but the administration’s unprecedented moves to target energy companies will cost jobs, raise utility rates and are a major obstacle standing in the way of American energy independence.” – AG Scott Pruitt
Devon Energy sent us the following statement:
"Our engagement with attorneys general is consistent - and proportionate - with our commitment to engage in conversations with policymakers on a broad range of matters that promote jobs, economic growth and a robust domestic energy sector.
It is important and practical for states to resolve legal questions related to jurisdictional conflicts with the federal government, and these matters can only be resolved in federal courts. Oil and natural gas production is a state-regulated industry, and we have an obligation and a right to seek clarity and solutions when our interests are being harmed.
We often serve as a resource with useful information and expertise for decision-makers.
We have a clear obligation to our shareholders and others to be involved in these discussions related to job growth, economic growth and domestic energy. It is important that we give full consideration to policymaker requests for information and expertise on industry issues. And it would be indefensible for us to not be engaged in these important issues."