President-elect Donald Trump’s pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, has been asked by a group of Democratic senators to disclose any ties he may have to the energy industry. The inquiry comes ahead of the confirmation hearing scheduled for the beginning of next year.
Pruitt, who currently serves as Oklahoma’s Attorney General, received the letter on Wednesday from six Democratic senators on the U.S. environmental panel. The senators are led by former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
In the letter, the senators highlight a 2014 New York Times report, which stated that “Pruitt’s policy positions as Oklahoma’s top attorney reflected his close ties to Devon Energy Corp.”
Pruitt had previously addressed his position to The Oklahoman newspaper, saying that “Devon Energy was a constituent he represented and the company made people aware of regulatory overreach on fracking.”
In the letter to Pruitt the senators wrote, “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 that we expect will receive a full airing during your confirmation hearing.”
They also questioned his ties to the Rule of Law Defense Fund which, according to the senators, supports “initiatives” by the billionaire industrialist Koch brothers. The Koch brothers are against the EPA’s climate change regulations.
The senators asked Pruitt to submit details about any connections and contributions he has to the Rule of Law Defense Fund, his communications with the fund, and a “list of all federal and state legislation or regulations the Fund has taken a position on.”
The senators said also stated the following: “The confirmation process, starting with your responses to Committee questions before your hearing, is an opportunity for you to dispel the notion that the advocacy you have undertaken on environmental issues as Attorney General of Oklahoma has been directed by and for the benefit of the energy industry.”
Jordan Russell, a spokesman for the Rule of Law Defense Fund, which has positions on all issues from “healthcare to federalism,” accused the Democratic senators of launching “politically motivated attacks” against his organization.
Russell said, “It is unfortunate that certain Democrat Senators appear willing to trample First Amendment rights in order to score cheap political points.”
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