Newly obtained emails reveal that Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt granted exemptions to oil and gas producers in Utah from key smog and ozone pollution requirements shortly after taking office, exemptions they had been seeking for years, according to Politico.
The Sierra Club obtained the emails in connection with a lawsuit over a Freedom of Information Act request.
Matt Gravatt, associate legislative director at the Sierra Club, told Politico that the emails show polluters have Pruitt at their “beck and call.”
“The public is being shut out of the decisions that affect the air we all breathe while polluters have Pruitt at their beck and call whenever they ask to throw out a lifesaving protection,” Gravatt said.
The Hill notes that “Utah oil and gas producers received the exemption after an industry lobbyist, Marc Himmelstein, asked for assistance from House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah).”
Emails showed that Himmelstein coordinated a phone call between Pruitt and Utah lawmakers in July 2017, according to Politico. Himmelstein reportedly gave Bishop talking points for the conversation.
Among the talking points, Himmelstein reportedly told Bishop to ask the EPA to “develop a streamlined permitting solution for future development” of the Uinta Basin in Utah.
At the time, the EPA was about to declare that the land was not meeting standards for smog or ozone pollution — a move that would bar oil and gas producers from using the permitting solution. Instead, gas and oil producers would have to get approval for every well they aim to drill on the land.
But on April 30, the EPA made a proposal that was in line with Himmelstein’s request regarding a “streamlined permitting solution.” Politico notes that Himmelstein also sent Pruitt’s chief of staff marked-up regulatory text that he wanted Bishop to bring up.