Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, July 18, 2017

Contact:  Amy Atwood, (503) 504-5660,
Kristen van de Biezenbos,

Senator Whitehouse Supports Ethics Complaint Against EPA's Scott Pruitt

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) today filed a lengthy statement supporting a formal ethics complaint against Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt. The complaint was filed by the Center for Biological Diversity and law professor Kristen van de Biezenbos. 

In response to the complaint, the Oklahoma Bar Association is investigating possible ethical violations stemming from Pruitt's misrepresentation to senators about his use of a personal email address for official business while Oklahoma Attorney General.

“Thanks to Senator Whitehouse for supporting this effort to hold Scott Pruitt accountable for lying to Congress,” said Amy Atwood, endangered species legal director at the Center. “Pruitt's callous disregard for the truth about his ties to the fossil fuel industry reveals his compromised ethics.”

In March, shortly after the Center and Ms. Van de Biezenbos filed the complaint, the Oklahoma Bar Association opened an investigation and requested a response from Pruitt. Sen. Whitehouse's statement adds support for the allegations and expresses concerns that Pruitt's misstatements have compromised the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee to confirm and oversee him as EPA Administrator.

“Mr. Pruitt's pattern of misstatements and attempted obfuscation of his email use, linked with his ‘abjectly' delayed [public records act] responses regarding those emails, has been a self-serving effort to conceal his ties to industries that have given money to him in the past, and which he now regulates,” wrote Sen. Whitehouse in his statement. “This conduct on its face appears to violate the standards of professional responsibility that Mr. Pruitt has taken an oath to uphold.”

In an article published today, a representative of the Oklahoma Bar Association told the Huffington Post the investigation is ongoing and may take many months to conclude.

In May the Center filed a federal lawsuit pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act, seeking Mr. Pruitt's emails and schedules since he became EPA administrator. That case is pending in Washington, D.C.

Bar Complaint and Investigation Timeline
January 18, 2017 – During a hearing of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works to consider Pruitt's appointment to EPA administrator, Pruitt states three times that he used his official Oklahoma attorney general email address only to conduct official business.

January 24, 2017 – Pruitt follows up with written responses to questions from the Senate committee. In response to a question from Sen. Whitehouse, Pruitt states that he used two email addresses during his time as attorney general, one for personal email and another, “,” for official state business.

February 17, 2017 – Pruitt is confirmed as EPA administrator.

February 21, 2017 – In response to a Oklahoma Open Records Act lawsuit brought by the Center for Media and Democracy, the Oklahoma attorney general's office releases thousands of emails from Pruitt's time as attorney general which reveal several instances where he used a “” personal email address to conduct official state business, contradicting his Jan. 24 written responses. Released emails show communications with the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers about rolling back renewable fuel standards set under the Obama administration. The emails also reveal correspondence with representatives of the American Legislative Exchange Council, a right-wing organization that works to weaken environmental laws that Pruitt administers at the EPA, such as the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act.

March 17, 2017 – Sens. Whitehouse, Carper, Sanders, Markey and Duckworth write to Pruitt asking why he told the EPW Committee that he did not use a personal email address for official state business. The letter also notes Pruitt failed to mention several public speeches or presentations that he has made related to energy or the environment, including to the Federalist Society.

March 21, 2017 – The Center and law professor Kristen van de Biezenbos file a formal ethics complaint with the Oklahoma Bar Association, requesting an investigation into Mr. Pruitt's misrepresentations to the Senate EPW Committee regarding use of a private email address for official state business while Oklahoma Attorney General. The complaint lists Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse as a witness to the allegations.

March 30, 2017 – The Oklahoma Bar Association opens an investigation.

June 14, 2017 – The Washington Post reveals that Mr. Pruitt used a third email address while Oklahoma attorney general,, another government email address that was not previously disclosed to the EPW Committee. Documents reveal that this second government email address was used to discuss talking points related to the Clean Power Plan and Mr. Pruitt's responses to Open Records Act requests.

June 15, 2017 – Sens. Whitehouse, Carper, Sanders, Markey and Duckworth write Mr. Pruitt, asking why he failed to disclose the third email address that he used as Oklahoma attorney general.

July 18, 2017 – Sen. Whitehouse files 68-page statement in support of ethics complaint.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.3 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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