Attorneys general, energy companies work hand in hand — report 

Source: E&E • Posted: Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Some of the nation’s largest energy firms have formed tight relationships with Republican attorneys general, using the offices to bring credibility to industry advocacy against Obama administration pollution rules.

While attorneys general are elected as legal representatives of state residents, many are using the positions to advocate for powerful corporate energy interests, documents show. When Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt (R) wrote to U.S. EPA to argue the agency was overestimating the amount of air pollution generated from natural gas wells in his state, he used a three-page letter written by Devon Energy that he presented as his own.

“The timing of the letter is great, given our meeting this Friday with both EPA and the White House,” wrote William Whitsitt, the then-director of government relations for Devon Energy, who delivered the letter to Pruitt.

Pruitt and other attorneys general in at least 12 states are working with energy companies and other corporate interests, who have rewarded them with record campaign contributions of at least $16 million this year. Pruitt has sent letters prepared by energy lobbyists to EPA, the Interior Department, the Office of Management and Budget, and President Obama, records show. Companies have also asked attorneys general to push for state lawmakers to pass draft legislation prepared by corporations.

The attorneys general, in turn, have joined together to challenge federal policies by filing lawsuits in federal court — sometimes lawsuits that are joined by corporate interests. Some say the close collaboration raises ethical questions.

“When you use a public office, pretty shamelessly, to vouch for a private party with substantial financial interest without the disclosure of the true authorship, that is a dangerous practice,” said David Frohnmayer, a former Republican attorney general in Oregon. “The puppeteer behind the stage is pulling strings, and you can’t see. I don’t like that. And when it is exposed, it makes you feel used.”

Pruitt said viewing his activities as unscrupulous was a product of the nation’s toxic political environment that didn’t match the reality.

“Despite those criticisms, we sit around and make decisions about what is right, and what represents adherence to the rule of law, and we seek to advance that and try to do the best we can to educate people about our viewpoint,” Pruitt said (Eric Lipton, New York Times, Dec. 6)