Washington, DC—Scott Pruitt, President-elect Trump’s nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), should not be allowed to participate in lawsuits that he filed against the EPA, according to a letter sent today by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) to the EPA’s Ethics Office and the Office of Government Ethics (OGE). Pruitt has stated his intention to seek an ethics waiver to allow him to defend the EPA against the dozens of suits he himself brought against the agency as Oklahoma Attorney General.
Without the waiver, Pruitt is barred from participating in any lawsuit in which the State of Oklahoma is a party. According to the letter, that does not go far enough:
“That undertaking, however, leaves open the possibility that he could participate in such lawsuits if Oklahoma were to withdraw from them. That would hardly eliminate the actual conflict and appearance of conflict…It is therefore essential that Mr. Pruitt be required to recuse himself entirely from each of these matters even if Oklahoma were to withdraw from them or to waive any conflict.”
In Pruitt’s ethics agreement, he has committed to not participate in these matters, absent a waiver, only for one year following his resignation as Oklahoma Attorney General. That does not go far enough. As the letter states, “These litigation matters, however, could easily extend more than one year into the future. There would be serious actual and apparent conflicts leading to reasonable doubts about Mr. Pruitt’s impartiality if he were to participate in these lawsuits as EPA Administrator at any point in their lifetime. It is therefore essential that Mr. Pruitt’s recusals last through the full course of each matter.”
“By granting the waiver, the EPA would be allowing Pruitt to effectively play both sides of the lawsuits. We clearly know where he stands, as he was the one to file them,” CREW Communications Director Jordan Libowitz said. “It cannot be expected that he would then vigorously defend the EPA. He should not be granted any waiver by the EPA’s Ethics Office.”