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Newspaper Uncovers Secret Alliance Between Energy Companies And Several States' Attorney Generals

To write this blog, I often monitor announcements by several states' attorney generals. I was saddened to read an investigative report describing a secretive alliance betwen several energy companies and state's attorney generals. The New York Times reported:

"The email exchange from October 2011, obtained through an open-records request, offers a hint of the unprecedented, secretive alliance that Mr. Pruitt and other Republican attorneys general have formed with some of the nation’s top energy producers to push back against the Obama regulatory agenda, an investigation by The New York Times has found."

What the newspaper's investigation uncovered:

"The letter to the Environmental Protection Agency from Attorney General Scott Pruitt of Oklahoma carried a blunt accusation: Federal regulators were grossly overestimating the amount of air pollution caused by energy companies drilling new natural gas wells in his state. But Mr. Pruitt left out one critical point. The three-page letter was written by lawyers for Devon Energy, one of Oklahoma’s biggest oil and gas companies, and was delivered to him by Devon’s chief of lobbying."

The newspaper also uncovered:

"Industries that [Mr. Pruitt] regulates have also joined him as plaintiffs in court challenges, a departure from the usual role of the state attorney general, who traditionally sues companies to force compliance with state law."

According to the newspaper's report, the Southern Company of Gergia, an electric utility, also sent similar letters to states' attorney generals. The goal seems to be to roll back regulations that currently ensure clean air, water, and land -- a spun in terms of advancing states' right and limiting federal government rights. This may be happening in 15 other states; most with Republican attorney generals.One set of documents describe a former state attorney general who became a lobbyist.

It is also troubling because the state attorney general represents the state and its residents, not advocate for a specific company:

“When you use a public office, pretty shamelessly, to vouch for a private party with substantial financial interest without the disclosure of the true authorship, that is a dangerous practice,” said David B. Frohnmayer, a Republican who served a decade as attorney general in Oregon. “The puppeteer behind the stage is pulling strings, and you can’t see. I don’t like that. And when it is exposed, it makes you feel used.”

I am not an attorney nor a resident of Oklahoma. Perhaps, some concerned citizens in the applicable states will challenge their attorney generals' conduct. Example: a section from the Oklahoma Rules of Professional Conduct which seems applicable:

"Chapter 1, App. 3-A
Transactions with Persons Other than Clients
Rule 4.1. Truthfulness In Statements To Others
In the course of representing a client a lawyer shall not knowingly: (a) make a false statement of material fact or law to a third person; or (b) fail to disclose a material fact to a third person when disclosure is necessary to avoid assisting a criminal or fraudulent act by a client, unless disclosure is prohibited by Rule 1.6."

Another section of the code:

"Rule 3.9. Advocate in Nonadjudicative Proceedings
A lawyer representing a client before a legislative body or administrative agency in a nonadjudicative proceeding shall disclose that the appearance is in a representative capacity and shall conform to the provisions of Rules 3.3 (a) through (c), 3.4 (a) through (c), and 3.5.

Comment: [1] In representation before bodies such as legislatures, municipal councils, and executive and administrative agencies acting in a rule-making or policy-making capacity, lawyers present facts, formulate issues and advance argument in the matters under consideration. The decision-making body, like a court, should be able to rely on the integrity of the submissions made to it. A lawyer appearing before such a body must deal with the it honestly and in conformity with applicable rules of procedure..."

What are your opinions of Mr. Pruitt's alleged actions? Of the secret alliance? Any readers in Oklahoma care to comment below? I expect these actions from elected politicians, not lawyers responsible for enforcing the state's laws. These alleged actions put a democracy in peril.


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