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California Suing The EPA For Failing To Provide Records On Scott Pruitt's Potential Conflicts Of Interest

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An individual at a protest against Scott Pruitt's nomination to head the EPA in February. (Photo by Lorrie Shaull via the Flickr Creative Commons)
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There is the United States of America, and then there is California, where we play by our own rules.

On Friday, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency for failing to provide answers about EPA head honcho Scott Pruitt’s potential conflicts of interest. The state AG's office had filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request seeking documents on Pruitt's potential conflicts back in April. Despite being legally required to respond by May 11, the EPA failed to do so, and has yet to comply with the request.

"Even after receiving Attorney General Becerra’s June 14 notice of violation letter and having ample time to gather the documents requested, the EPA has still not made the required disclosures," according to a statement from Becerra's office.

“The EPA is legally required to respond to our FOIA request. Administrator Pruitt and the Trump Administration are not above the law,” Becerra said in the statement. “The public has a right to know whether Administrator Pruitt and the EPA have complied with federal ethics laws."

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A quick rehash for anyone trying to keep up with American Democracy 2017 from home: Pruitt was confirmed to lead the Environmental Protection Agency in February, despite being a longtime adversary of the agency. In his role as Oklahoma attorney general, Pruitt sued the agency more than a dozen times, trying to block Obama-era environmental regulations.

As the now-leader of the EPA, Pruitt has very generously offered to recuse himself from any role in ongoing suits against the EPA that he'd filed back when he was Oklahoma AG. He has, however, "made clear in that memorandum that he was not recusing himself from participating in EPA rulemakings regarding the same rules that are the subject of litigation on which he acknowledges he has a conflict," according to the California Attorney General's office. In the still-uncomplied-with FOIA, Becerra had formally requested thirty-two categories of documents related to Pruitt's known conflicts of interest, and any actions taken by EPA or the Administrator to comply with federal ethics laws.

"Administrator Pruitt’s ability to serve as an impartial decision maker merits close examination, especially now that he has taken a direct role in initiating review of numerous EPA regulations he sought to undo while serving as Oklahoma’s Attorney General for six years," said Becerra.