An Oklahoma County District Judge on Thursday ordered Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt [official website], the recently confirmed head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) [official website], to release thousands of e-mails between his office [text order]* and fossil fuel companies by the close of business on February 21. The order by Judge Aletia Haynes Timmons is the latest development in a lawsuit filed against Pruitt by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy websites] that claims [official complaint] Pruitt violated the Oklahoma Open Records Act [Act text], which requires “prompt and reasonable” access to the requested public records, by failing to provide public access to official e-mails and other documents for more than two years. The plaintiffs have asked for an emergency injection to prevent Pruitt from destroying any documents relevant to the pending open records requests.
There has been controversy and confirmation delay surrounding the nomination of Pruitt as EPA head. The CMD has submitted seven different requests [JURIST report] for public documents with the Attorney General’s office since January 2015. They claim that the two years that CMD has waited for the requested documents is not prompt or reasonable. CMD is also requesting reasonable attorney’s fees. The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works held a hearing on the nomination of Pruitt for the head of the EPA on January 18. The confirmation vote was rescheduled on February 1st to February 17 due to the threat of boycott by Senate Democrats. Democrats have criticized the Pruitt’s nomination due to numerous lawsuits that he has filed against the EPA. Pruitt has defended the lawsuits stating that he had “taken the legal action on behalf of an industry that is critical to his state’s economic vitality, not on the part of energy companies or their shareholders.”
* The judge’s order for production of records pertains to five Open Records Act requests made between November 2015 and August 2016. However, the order erroneously says April 2016 through August 2016.