Trump's EPA Not Above the Law, Must Cure Any Conflicts of Interest
AG Becerra Files Lawsuit Against EPA for Failing to Comply with FOIA Request
SACRAMENTO – Attorney General Xavier Becerra today filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for failing to comply with a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. On April 7, the California Attorney General’s Office sent a letter to the EPA requesting documents on Administrator Scott Pruitt’s potential conflicts of interest. The EPA failed to respond by May 11 as required by law. 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.
“The EPA is legally required to respond to our FOIA request. Administrator Pruitt and the Trump Administration are not above the law,” said Attorney General Becerra. “The public has a right to know whether Administrator Pruitt and the EPA have complied 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."
On May 5, in response to a journalist’s FOIA request, the EPA released a memorandum Administrator Pruitt signed the day before stating he would recuse himself from some cases in which he had sued the EPA while serving as Oklahoma’s Attorney General. However, Administrator Pruitt 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. As a result of the EPA improperly withholding the FOIA-requested documents, Administrator Pruitt continues to conceal whether and to what extent he has allowed EPA ethics officials to evaluate and authorize his involvement in regulatory actions. The documents requested by the California Attorney General’s Office are therefore of the utmost importance.
Since taking office, Attorney General Becerra has been fighting to protect our environment. Among other actions, he has filed a challenge to the EPA’s illegal delay of important national air quality control standards, and the EPA subsequently backed down; expressed his strong opposition to the Trump Administration’s “review” of national marine sanctuaries and national monuments; and submitted legal objections to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt for not making the required safety finding for chlorpyrifos, a pesticide used on more than 80 food crops.
A copy of the FOIA lawsuit is attached to the electronic version of this release at oag.ca.gov/news