NY Times: Pruitt a Leader in ‘Secretive Alliance’ Between Attorneys General and Energy Industry
Attorneys general in at least a dozen states have formed an ‘unprecedented, secretive alliance’ with the energy industry to fight federal environmental regulations, The New York Times Eric Lipton reports.
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt has emerged as a leader of this effort, the Timesreports, both through his role as president of the Republican Attorneys General Association and with his close ties to the energy industry.
In his war against federal government overreach, Pruitt has signed his name on letters to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency drafted by lawyers for Devon Energy, and joined a “group aligned” with Continental Resources billionaire CEO Harold Hamm “to sue the Interior Department over its plan to consider adding animals such as the lesser prairie chicken to the endangered species list.”
For Mr. Pruitt, the benefits have been clear. Lobbyists and company officials have been notably solicitous, helping him raise his profile as president for two years of the Republican Attorneys General Association, a post he used to help start what he and allies called the Rule of Law campaign, which was intended to push back against Washington. That campaign, in which attorneys general band together to operate like a large national law firm, has been used to back lawsuits and other challenges against the Obama administration on environmental issues, the Affordable Care Act and securities regulation. The most recent target is the president’s executive action on immigration. “We are living in the midst of a constitutional crisis,” Mr. Pruitt told energy industry lobbyists and conservative state legislators at a conference in Dallas in July, after being welcomed with a standing ovation. “The trajectory of our nation is at risk and at stake as we respond to what is going on.”
For his part, Pruitt told the Times his close relationship with the energy industry stems from his desire “to gather information from experts, while defending his state’s longstanding tradition of self-determination.”
Pruitt’s role in the Rule of Law campaign and the Republican Attorney Generals Association was born out of a desire for the AG’s to “band together” like they did in challenging the Affordable Care Act, the Times reports. One of Pruitt’s big promoters was Andrew P. Miller, a former Virginia attorney general who now represents energy, mining and utility companies.
Mr. Miller’s pitch to Mr. Pruitt became a reality early last year at the historic Skirvin Hilton Hotel in Oklahoma City, where he brought together an extraordinary assembly of energy industry power brokers and attorneys general from nine states for what he called the Summit on Federalism and the Future of Fossil Fuels. The meeting took place in the shadow of office towers that dominate Oklahoma City’s skyline and are home to Continental Resources, a leader in the nation’s fastest-growing oil field, the Bakken formation of North Dakota, as well as Devon Energy, which drilled 1,275 new wells last year. More liberal attorneys general, such as Douglas F. Gansler, Democrat of Maryland, did not participate. “Indeed, General Gansler would in all likelihood try to hijack your summit,” Mr. Miller wrote to Mr. Pruitt in an email. “At best you would be left to preside over a debate, rather than a call to arms.”