New EPA Lawsuit Claims Scott Pruitt 'Covered Up Evidence of Potential Criminal Wrongdoing'

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt and "his cronies" tried to hide evidence of possible criminal activity at a Superfund site in Oklahoma, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday.

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Watchdog groups Campaign for Accountability and American Oversight filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The suit seeks records on the Tar Creek Superfund site, which the organizations believe the EPA is "wrongfully withholding."

"First Scott Pruitt and his cronies covered up evidence of potential criminal wrongdoing at a Superfund site, and now they're trying to cover their tracks," Campaign for Accountability Executive Director Daniel Stevens said in a statement. "Oklahomans deserve to learn who profited from the Tar Creek cleanup process."

The watchdog groups allege Pruitt—at the time Oklahoma's attorney general—would not pursue criminal charges after a 2014 report from the state auditor showed criminal wrongdoing within the government program, which was designed to aid families residing around the polluted site. Pruitt also prevented the auditor's report from being released.

Those actions show Pruitt's "consistent disregard for transparency from the time he was attorney general to his time as EPA administrator," Stevens told Newsweek. Pruitt has recently been embroiled in controversies including a deal he cut to stay at a lobbyist's condo for only $50 per night.

New Pruitt Lawsuit: We're representing @Accountable_Org in a lawsuit to obtain @EPA records of the Tar Creek Superfund site in Oklahoma. As Oklahoma AG, Scott Pruitt blocked release of an audit report on the Tar Creek relocation fund.

— American Oversight (@weareoversight) April 5, 2018

Tar Creek, one of the first sites in the Superfund program and still among the most polluted places in the country, "started as an environmental tragedy, morphed into a criminal scandal, and is turning out as a political cover-up," American Oversight Executive Director Austin Evers said in a statement.

Pruitt appointed Albert Kelly, a former banker in Oklahoma with business connections to Pruitt, to oversee the Superfund program weeks after he was fined $125,000 by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation for violating a law related to a loan.

"It speaks to how he puts his cronies in power when they shouldn't be," Stevens said of Pruitt.

The watchdog groups demanded that the court order the EPA to respond to their Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests made in February.

"EPA is an agency subject to FOIA and must therefore release in response to a FOIA request any non-exempt records and provide a lawful reason for withholding any materials," the suit stated.