Judge Orders EPA Documents Hidden by Scott Pruitt Smokescreen Revealed
It’s always a good sign when the Trump administration is challenged by a court. Despite the reckless way in which this administration operates, we at least know that a court can always corner the administration in one way or another. Trump’s EPA director Scott Pruitt is now being ordered by a district court to comply to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.
The Public Employees For Environmental Responsibility (PEER) filed an FOIA last year with the EPA. Their filing was right after Scott Pruitt was on CNBC’s Squawk Box. He was asked if he thought carbon dioxide was a major contributor to climate change:
No, I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact. So no, I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see. But we don’t know that yet. We need to continue the debate and continue the review and the analysis.
PEER wants the EPA to release documents that Pruitt may have relied on to draw his conclusions. It would have been too early in Pruitt’s position to have such documents. But, the request counted on documentation that the EPA already had before he became the agency director.
This is because the scientific evidence shared by the EPA before be was confirmed would have contradicted him. It’s also possible the request would have turned up any new documents. But as with everything the Trump administration does, the EPA “stalled and refused“ to give PEER what they wanted. So, PEER decided to sue.
Scott Pruitt’s Climate Science
Scott Pruitt’s history with the fossil fuel industry certainly qualifies him to be the worst person to lead the EPA. As Oklahoma’s attorney general, he was already seen as a direct enemy of the EPA, suing the department at least 14 times on behalf of the fuel industry. In fact, this history might be the reason for why the Trump administration picked him.
Since Pruitt has led the agency, he’s worked towards creating his own climate psuedo-science. He’s already disbanded an advisory board of scientists in order to replace them with his own. The move was seen as his effort to standardize his own climate science. Many of those that he would add to the board would be members of the fuel industry.
It’s important to note that fossil fuel companies have been heavily regulated by the EPA in the past. With Pruitt at the helm, he’s been able to “review” and kill a lot of Obama-era regulations that had been a headache for those companies. All of this is being done to create a reality that will support his initial statement on carbon dioxide.
Scott Pruitt In Trouble?
For months now Pruitt has been under fire for plundering tax payer funds for personal expense. Various reports over the year has shown that he’s increased personal security detail, had a 43,000 soundproof phone booth built and spent tax payer money on private flights. The New York Times published a diagram which shows all the reasons for why he’s the center of federal inquiries.
More reports have been circulating in recent days about other strange moves which is frustrating more Republicans according to Politico. Two more of Pruitt’s closest aides have reportedly left the agency under these scandals. According to the report, Republicans are still keeping their support with Pruitt despite the scandals. One of the reasons for this is because of the difficulties they would face in replacing him. President Trump reportedly expressed his support for Pruitt on Wednesday during a meeting on the 2018 hurricane season showing that he’s probably there to stay.
District Court Judge’s Order
Ars Technica uploaded a memo that was issued by the US District Court Judge for the District of Columbia. It says that the EPA had until July 2 to comply to the FOIA request. If they did not provide those documents, then the EPA would have until July 11 to provide a reason as to why.
Scott Pruitt’s EPA already gave some excuses as to why they refused to comply to the PEER request. First, they said that the request was too broad saying that the request was:
…an impermissible attempt to compel EPA and its administrator to answer questions and take a position on the climate change debate…
The EPA also said that the request would force them to do too much work”
to spend countless hours research and analyzing a vast trove of material on the effect of human activity on climate change, a subjective assessment upon which reasonable minds can differ.
The judge wrote in her brief that the EPA appeared to be putting up an “epistemological smokescreen,” in order to “evade its obligations to the FOIA.” Back in May, Politico reported that the EPA had increased their screening process for FIOA requests. With regard to information around Pruitt’s carbon dioxide statement last year, E&E News got a response to their FOIA request before EPA leaders could screen it. If anything, the memo shows that the district judge is well aware of the EPA’s smokescreen and how valuable a tool the FOIA is for citizens.
Featured image via Flickr