Emails Show EPA Chief Scott Pruitt Was Cozy With Florida-Backed Energy Representatives

Emails Show EPA Chief Scott Pruitt Was Cozy With Florida-Backed Energy Representatives
Photo by Gage Skidmore / Flickr
The State of Florida is effectively run by shills for the oil, gas, and energy industries. Floridians know what that means: Every time well-meaning citizens or politicians try to lobby the state to pass energy or environmental regulations, the leather utility company boot stomps on Tallahassee's neck. It's not fun.

Now, thanks to a gigantic dump of emails released today, the rest of America learned that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will be run the exact same way. Thanks to an Oklahoma lawsuit, that state just released thousands of messages from Scott Pruitt, Donald Trump's new EPA director.

And the emails show Pruitt worked hand-in-hand with energy company representatives and operatives to craft policy — including the Edison Electricity Institute, a trade group that represents the Sunshine State's four major electricity monopolies, including Florida Power & Light.

In addition, Pruitt at one point received some pro bono talking points from a lobbyist who represents multiple power generators, including the massive Southern Company, which owns Florida's Gulf Power. (That company is a regulated monopoly serving customers in the state's Panhandle.)

In 2013, the emails show, Pruitt's administration received a white paper full of talking points from Roderick Hastie, a lobbyist with Hunton & Williams, which represents Southern. At the time, the EPA was attempting to set "Startup, Shutdown, Malfunction" rules, which hold power companies to air-quality standards when their facilities are opening, closing, or not working properly. Hastie encouraged Pruitt's office to fight the regulations.

"Please find attached a short white paper with some talking points that you might find useful to cut and paste when encouraging States to file comments on the SSM rule," Hastie wrote.
via State of Oklahoma
The emails also show that Pruitt, along with representatives from Southern Energy, received an invitation to hang out at George Mason University, the Koch-brothers-funded college in Virginia.

Pruitt's ties to Florida energy companies don't stop there. In 2014, he sued the EPA for trying to pass laws regulating "haze" in the atmosphere. Pruitt's lawsuit was apparently so popular with the Edison Electricity Institute (EEI), which represents every investor-owned utility in America, that the EEI asked Oklahoma's then-attorney general to write an op-ed for it for the Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association.

Among more than a hundred other investor-owned utility companies, the EEI represents Gulf Power, Tampa Electric, Duke Energy, the Florida Public Utilities Company, and FPL.

"At the suggestion of colleagues at Oklahoma Gas & Electric, I am writing regarding an opportunity for a state regulator, perhaps AG Pruitt, to contribute an article on regional haze for an environmental policy journal of the Air & Waste Management Association (the professional society of air quality specialists)," EEI representative John Kinsman wrote to Pruitt's office in 2014.

Pruitt initially agreed to draft an op-ed, but when he later said he would blow his deadline, Kinsman told Pruitt's administration that the AG could just copy and paste old things he'd written into some sort of Franken-article.

"Remember that it is only 1000-1500 words and can be cut and past [sic] from past editorials and court filings, language that has already been approved in the past," Kinsman wrote. "I think the General’s thoughts on this issue are clear enough and very important for readers! I am really hoping we can make this work!"

For the record, the "important thoughts" the EEI wanted to pass on were simple: Pruitt thought the EPA had no business telling coal-burning power plants to stop releasing pollution into the sky.

Today's email dump confirms everything climate-change activists have already suspected about Pruitt. He's less ideologically opposed to climate science than he is basically just a puppet for energy company talking points. Because the Earth is rapidly warming thanks to carbon emissions from fossil-fuel power plants, the nation needs a regulator willing to take a hard line against carbon-emitting power. Instead, it has Pruitt, a man whose emails show he's beloved by the trade group that represents some of Florida's largest carbon emitters.

Now that Pruitt has been confirmed, New Times already reported earlier this week that his climate-change-denying ways will only work to drown Miami under rising seas. Today's emails confirm that for the next four to eight years, the EPA will run a heck of a lot like Tallahassee. And that is terrifying.
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Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.