Watchdog group calls for ‘whole story’ behind Scott Pruitt’s involvement in Superfund site scandal
Suspicions are growing over Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt’s alleged involvement in covering up a possible crime at a hazardous waste site in his home state of Oklahoma. In response, a nonprofit watchdog group filed a lawsuit for more information in Oklahoma on Tuesday against the state’s attorney general.
The complaint was filed in the District Court of Oklahoma County by the Campaign for Accountability. It accuses Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter — who succeeded Pruitt as the state’s top prosecutor — with failing to release communications between Pruitt and U.S. Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) about the work of the Lead-Impacted Communities Relocation Trust (LICRAT), a state group created to oversee the clean-up of Tar Creek, a hazardous waste site in northeastern Oklahoma.
Tar Creek, one of the first sites in the Superfund program, is still among the most polluted places in the country. In 2006, Inhofe endorsed a plan in which a trust overseen by local citizens — LICRAT — would use federal dollars to purchase homes and businesses in the region so residents could move elsewhere. But that plan was plagued by alleged corruption.
A 2014 report from the state auditor showed criminal wrongdoing within the government program. But Pruitt, as Oklahoma attorney general, refused to conduct an investigation based on the auditor’s findings and took the unusual step of evoking an exception to state freedom of information laws to keep the audit from being an open public record.
But, under pressure from a lawsuit, Hunter on Monday finally released a copy of the long-suppressed 2014 audit of Tar Creek. As the audit showed, a project manager at the Tar Creek Superfund site likely helped rig bids as part of a possible conspiracy to defraud the state of Oklahoma.