EPW Democrats to McConnell: Emergency Hearing in Oklahoma Compels Senate to Postpone Pruitt Vote

Oklahoma District Court calls for expedited release of information denied to senators during Attorney General Pruitt’s confirmation

Tuesday February 14, 2017

WASHINGTON – Minority Members of the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, led by Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-Del.), have sent a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urging him to postpone a vote on the nomination of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to be administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). For more than two years, requests for access to Mr. Pruitt’s email communications with oil and gas industry officials during his tenure as attorney general have not been granted. However, recent action in the Oklahoma District Court has resulted in the Court scheduling an emergency hearing to review the requests this week. The expedited request includes information requested by committee Democrats from Mr. Pruitt during his confirmation process that Mr. Pruitt refused to provide, instead recommending that senators obtain the information through the Oklahoma Open Records Act.

“This request is fully in keeping with the direction that Mr. Pruitt himself gave to members of the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee,” the Senators wrote. “Specifically, in his responses to written questions requesting that he provide certain documents and records, Mr. Pruitt directed members of the EPW Committee to ‘make a request of the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office under the Oklahoma Open Records Act.’ We now have reason to believe this information is likely to be produced in the very near term as a result of legal action in Oklahoma.”

The Senators continued, “Granting this request – to schedule consideration of Mr. Pruitt’s nomination at a time that permits Senators to receive and review the information we previously requested – is compelled, in our view, by the Senate’s obligation to provide advice and consent on Mr. Pruitt’s nomination.  These records are needed for the Senate to evaluate Mr. Pruitt’s suitability to serve in the position for which he has been nominated.”

On Thursday, February 16, 2017, in response to litigation filed by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), the District Court of Oklahoma County will hold an expedited hearing on CMD’s request for immediate release of many of the records that were also requested by EPW Committee Members.  CMD requested these records more than two years ago from the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office under the Oklahoma Open Records Act, and Minority Members of the EPW Committee requested these documents during Mr. Pruitt’s confirmation process.

Text of the letter to Leader McConnell can be found below and in pdf form here.

Dear Majority Leader McConnell:

We write regarding the scheduling of Senate consideration of the nomination of Oklahoma Attorney General E. Scott Pruitt to be Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.  We ask that you postpone consideration of this nomination until the Senate can receive and review information that we expect to be forthcoming from the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office. In fact, a portion of this information was released late Friday, February 10, 2017.

This request is fully in keeping with the direction that Mr. Pruitt himself gave to members of the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee. Specifically, in his responses to written questions requesting that he provide certain documents and records, Mr. Pruitt directed members of the EPW Committee to “make a request of the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office under the Oklahoma Open Records Act”.

We now have reason to believe this information is likely to be produced in the very near term as a result of legal action in Oklahoma.  On February 16, 2017, in response to litigation filed by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), the District Court of Oklahoma County will hold an expedited hearing on CMD’s request for immediate release of many of the records that were also requested by EPW Committee Members.  CMD requested these records more than two years ago from the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office under the Oklahoma Open Records Act. 

Granting this request – to schedule consideration of Mr. Pruitt’s nomination at a time that permits Senators to receive and review the information we previously requested – is compelled, in our view, by the Senate’s obligation to provide advice and consent on Mr. Pruitt’s nomination.  These records are needed for the Senate to evaluate Mr. Pruitt’s suitability to serve in the position for which he has been nominated.

At the same time, this request does not create an unreasonable delay in Mr. Pruitt’s confirmation process. The fact that some of this information has just been released strongly suggests that much of the information that members of the EPW Committee are seeking will finally be made available to the public, and to us, shortly.  Moreover, the District Court of Oklahoma County’s expedited hearing schedule, and the clarity with which the Oklahoma Open Records Act establishes CMD’s right to obtain the documents, indicates that the Court is likely to order the timely release of additional information.

Thank you for your consideration of our request. 

Sincerely,

                         Tom Carper                                           Bernard Sanders

                         U.S. Senator                                             U.S. Senator

 

                    Sheldon Whitehouse                                     Jeff Merkley

                         U.S. Senator                                             U.S. Senator

 

                        Cory Booker                                           Edward Markey

                         U.S. Senator                                             U.S. Senator

 

                    Tammy Duckworth                                   Kirsten Gillibrand

                         U.S. Senator                                             U.S. Senator

 

                         Kamala Harris                                        Benjamin Cardin

                          U.S. Senator                                             U.S. Senator

 

CC: Chairman John Barrasso