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EPA chief Pruitt’s ex-office wants more time on emails

Sean Murphy
Associated Press

Oklahoma City — Oklahoma’s new attorney general needs more time to comply with a court-ordered Friday deadline to produce thousands of documents related to the relationship that new Environmental Protection Agency leader Scott Pruitt had with energy companies, attorneys for his office argued on Tuesday.

Attorneys for Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter and the advocacy group Center for Media and Democracy presented arguments to a Supreme Court referee over Hunter’s motion for an emergency stay.

Hunter maintains his office has worked diligently to comply with a request submitted more than two years ago for documents under the state’s Open Records Act, which requires agencies to provide “prompt and reasonable access” to public records.

After an Oklahoma judge determined earlier this month that Pruitt’s office had been illegally withholding his correspondence, attorneys spent more than 90 man-hours to compile 7,500 pages for release, Assistant Attorney General Dan Weitman told the referee.

“All those documents have to be manually reviewed … twice,” Weitman said.

Other documents are still being held back pending further review by a judge, and the office has yet to comply with several additional requests made by the Center for Media and Democracy over the last two years.

The fact that Hunter’s office was able to prepare 7,500 documents for release over the weekend shows they are capable of complying with the request for more documents in a timely manner, said Bob Nelon, an attorney for the center.

“Ninety man hours or whatever … the fact remains that the attorney general’s office in the course of a weekend was able to comply with an Open Records request that was 2 years old,” Nelon said.

Oklahoma Supreme Court Chief Justice Douglas Combs could make a decision on Hunter’s request as early as Monday or seek input from the full nine-member court.

Documents and emails released so far show that while serving as Oklahoma’s attorney general, Pruitt’s office coordinated closely with fossil-fuel companies and special interest groups working to undermine federal efforts to curb planet-warming carbon emissions.