Scott Pruitt, President Donald Trump’s pick to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, may have made a false statement under oath to the Senate.
This was first reported Monday by Fusion’s Daniel Rivero. Business Insider was later able to confirm the underlying facts of Rivero’s article.
Pruitt – the attorney general of Oklahoma known for 14 lawsuits designed to fight regulations and cleanup efforts by the agency he hopes to lead – made the apparent false statement when referring to an ongoing environmental lawsuit involving several poultry companies in Arkansas.
Pruitt’s predecessor, Drew Edmondson, brought the case against Tyson Foods, Cargill Turkey, and 12 other poultry companies. Edmondson accused them of dumping 300,000 tons of poultry waste (read: bird poop) a year into the Illinois River upstream of Oklahoma.
The case, brought before a federal judge, was fought entirely before Pruitt took office in 2011. The judge, however, has yet to issue a ruling years later.
During Pruitt’s campaign to become state attorney general, he received $40,000 in donations from those companies and law firms representing them, according to The New York Times. Once in office, he took an apparently less aggressive approach to pursuing the case than his predecessor.
In response to questions from Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey during his confirmation hearing, Pruitt said: “I have taken no action to undermine that case. I have done nothing but file briefs in support of the court making a decision.”
Rivero and his team at Fusion found no evidence that Pruitt or his office had filed any briefs in support of making a decision with the case, apparently contradicting his claim under oath to the Senate.
In an independent review of publicly available documents from the case, Business Insider confirmed Rivero’s finding that no such briefs were filed since Pruitt took office.
As Fusion reported, the sole pertinent substantive filing by the state since Pruitt took office was a notice that a Supreme Court case thought to be relevant had been decided but would not make a difference in the Oklahoma case. (You can read that document below.)
In an email to Business Insider, Pruitt confirmation team spokesman John Konkus disputed Fusion and Business Insider’s interpretation of these facts.
Konkus said that Pruitt’s response to Booker was referencing the notice about the Supreme Court decision. That notice (embedded below) does not appear to include an encouragement to the judge to reach a decision.
However, Pruitt’s team suggests that the act of filing a notice in support of the state’s argument is an implicit encouragement to reach a decision.
Here’s Konkus’s full statement:
“Mr. Pruitt was referencing a notice filed in which the Attorney General’s office sent a Supreme Court decision to the judge which supports Oklahoma’s arguments made in the case.
“On 7-6-2011 the Attorney General’s office filed notice of relevant authority sending the court the Supreme Court decision in AEP v Connecticut which the Attorney General’s office says supports their arguments made in the poultry case regarding whether the CWA displaced its federal common law nuisance case.”
Business Insider asked Konkus in a follow-up email where in the notice Pruitt’s office encouraged the judge to reach a decision.
Konkus replied: “His intent in sending the notice was to encourage a decision in favor of Oklahoma’s position.”