Washington, DC – Following the Trump Administration’s move to roll back methane pollution requirements for oil and gas companies, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, and U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Edward J. Markey (D-MA) determined that former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt’s conflicts of interest render the EPA’s proposed methane rule invalid.
In July, Pruitt resigned from his position as EPA Administrator in the wake of ethics violations and scandals related to his conduct. The Senators write in an official comment submitted to the EPA that Pruitt lacked a sufficiently open mind to legally preside over changes to vital protections against methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. They note that Pruitt spent years cultivating relationships with the fossil fuel industry and accepting an outsized portion of his political funding from the industry. The Senators conclude that Pruitt’s major conflicts of interest, and his involvement in the proposal to roll back methane pollution protections, violated federal ethics rules and is illegal.
“The extreme and well-documented regulatory capture of the Trump EPA is evidence that it has effectively delegated its authority to the industries that have captured it, in particular, the fossil fuel industry,” the Senators wrote. “There is no substantive difference between an agency explicitly telling a company or industry to write a rule for it, and an agency telling a company or industry that it will write whatever rule the company or industry wants. Like Scott Pruitt’s Devon Energy letter, the substance is all industry, whatever the letterhead, and the public interest is ignored.”
Prior to serving as EPA Administrator, Scott Pruitt sued the EPA 14 times as Oklahoma Attorney General. This included one challenge to the methane rule that the EPA is now proposing to weaken. In one instance, Pruitt took a letter criticizing EPA’s work on methane emissions composed by one of his biggest donors, Devon Energy, and cut and pasted it onto official Oklahoma Attorney General stationary with only a few word changes and submitted it to the EPA over his own signature.
Numerous other EPA officials are also closely tied to the fossil fuel industry. Current Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler and Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation William Wehrum, among others, have represented companies and trade groups with business before the EPA, many of which stand to benefit from changes like the methane rule rollback. Due to EPA leadership’s improper contacts with the fossil fuel industry, as well as the agency’s disregard of technical expertise and unjustified regulatory changes, the Senators conclude in their official comment that the roll back of methane pollution requirements for oil and gas companies amounts to an egregious hand-over of an EPA’s rulemaking authority to the very industry that the agency regulates.
The full text of the Senators’ official comment to the EPA is available here.