The Environmental Protection Agency went on the defensive Friday as news organizations began releasing emails that showed frequent discussions between the fossil fuel industry and administrator Scott Pruitt in the early months of running the agency.
The agency said it is Pruitt’s prerogative to hold such meetings in his official capacity as head of the EPA, adding that the “implication that American businesses don’t care about the environment and public health is utterly false,” EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman wrote in an email.
“Each meeting, phone call or discussion that the Administrator has is focused on the Agency’s work to employ a positive environmental agenda,” Bowman added.
The emails were released by the Associated Press and E&E News Thursday evening based on Freedom of Information Act requests for access to the administrator’s email records both before and after he took the helm of the nation’s top environmental regulator.
The emails released by E&E showed that Pruitt had discussions with utilities, coal, oil, natural gas, automotive and agriculture industry officials in February and March.
“The Administrator and his staff have discussions daily about how we can work together as a country to achieve clean air, land and water,” Bowman added, in responding to the reports. “This includes discussions and meetings with: nonprofit groups and associations, like the agriculture, cement and toy associations; farm bureaus; representatives from the nature conservatory and the Audubon society; American businesses; international environmental ministers; and, bipartisan local and state elected officials and governors.”
E&E News’ 35 pages of documents corresponded primarily with Pruitt’s private schedule from Feb. 21-March 31. The AP’s documents included 4,000 emails that include schedules and lists of speaking engagements for years before Pruitt became EPA administrator.