California sues EPA over access to Pruitt records

California sues EPA over access to Pruitt records

Photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais, Associated Press

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EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt speaks to the media on June 2. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra sued the Environmental Protection Agency on Friday for failing to provide records he contends could show conflicts of interest by Pruitt. less EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt speaks to the media on June 2. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra sued the Environmental Protection Agency on Friday for failing to provide records he contends could show ... more Photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais, Associated Press

California’s Attorney General went to court Friday seeking conflict-of-interest rules from President Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency, whose chief spent years suing to overturn the environmental rules he is now charged with enforcing.

EPA Administrator Scott 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,” Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement after filing a federal court lawsuit in Washington, D.C.

Pruitt, in alliance with Oklahoma’s oil and gas industries, sued the federal agency over rules limiting power plant emissions of climate-changing greenhouse gases, methane and smog-causing air pollutants and setting national air-quality standards for ozone pollution. California took the opposite side in each of those cases, Becerra said.

After the Senate confirmed Trump’s nomination of Pruitt and he took office in February, Becerra said, Pruitt removed himself from taking part in the suits he had filed against the agency, but not from EPA proceedings to change those rules.

Pruitt “has now officially directed EPA to stay, reconsider, and possibly revise or even rescind many of these same rules,” the lawsuit said.

Becerra said he asked the EPA on April 7 under the Freedom of Information Act for documents describing any conflict-of-interest standards the agency has set for Pruitt in light of his actions in Oklahoma.

The law requires federal agencies to respond in 20 working days with information about the records it would produce and the exemptions it would claim, but the EPA’s only response was a couple of emails and a phone call saying it was working on the request, Becerra’s suit said. He asked a judge to order the EPA to produce the records and to reimburse California for its legal costs.

The federal agency responded with a statement criticizing the suit.

“EPA’s dedicated and hard-working career staff are working as quickly as possible to respond to all incoming FOIA requests and meet their legal deadlines,” the agency said, noting its staff members’ contacts with Becerra’s office.

“It’s unfortunate that California is suing the agency, draining resources that could be better spent protecting human health and the environment — rather than working with EPA’s career staff, as they can gather all the information requested.”

Bob Egelko is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @egelko

Source : http://www.sfgate.com/science/article/Trump-s-EPA-sued-over-sluggish-response-to-11758885.php

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