Thursday, March 30, 2017

EPA Head faces disbarment for lying during confirmation hearing




By Randy Krehbiel Tulsa World | 0 comments

An environmental organization and a University of Oklahoma law professor have filed a complaint with the Oklahoma Bar Association against U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt.

The complaint alleges Pruitt violated bar association rules by lying to the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee during his January confirmation hearing. Pruitt was Oklahoma attorney general at the time.

The Center for Biological Diversity and OU Professor Kristen van de Biezenbos say emails obtained by another organization through the Oklahoma Open Records Act show that Pruitt used a private email address to conduct business while Oklahoma attorney general.

Pruitt denied doing so while testifying to Congress. He could not be reached late Thursday for comment.

John Williams, executive director of the Oklahoma Bar Association, said the complaint would be treated the same as any other, and seemed miffed by a Center for Biological Diversity news release announcing an “investigation” of the complaint.

“We don’t make a decision to investigate (complaints),” Williams said. “We’re required to investigate.”

Van de Biezenbos said she did not consider the complaint controversial.

“It’s really just an inquiry,” she said.

But van de Biezenbos also said she thinks it’s likely that Pruitt was less than truthful in his Senate testimony, and because of that accepted the Center for Biological Diversity’s invitation to join in the bar association complaint.

“I imagine some will interpret this as a political move,” she said. “I can’t speak for the center, but … as a law professor, I’m invested in the legal profession. I don’t want my students to see someone who is a member of the Oklahoma Bar Association violate its ethics rules and no one do anything about it.”

Van de Biezenbos is not an OBA member but formerly practiced law in Louisiana and taught at Texas Tech University. She teaches oil and gas law at OU and said her academic focus is the “nexus of oil and gas and environmental law.”

The Center for Biological Diversity, based in Tucson, Arizona, is primarily interested in protecting endangered and imperiled species. It annually presents a “Rubber Dodo award” to “those who have done the most to destroy wild places, species and biological diversity.”

The organization’s 2012 Rubber Dodo went to Oklahoma U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe.

Randy Krehbiel

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