Wed. Nov 30th, 2022
Judge orders EPA to reveal science backing Pruitt's climate claims

In March 2017, Scott Pruitt, the new administrator for Donald Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency, appeared on CNBC and said that carbon dioxide was not known to be a major factor in climate change. “I don’t agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we’re seeing,” Pruitt said, adding, “there’s a huge disagreement about the extent of the impact” of “human activity on the planet.” climate”.

Based on what?

The next day, a group called Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) petition with the EPA, requesting documents from the agency that Administrator Pruitt may have relied on to reach his conclusions. . Since Pruitt’s words contradicted scientific evidence shared by the EPA before the administrator took office, PEER’s request could yield a recent document indicating that Pruitt had new information.

Instead, the EPA got stuck and refused to provide information to PEER. The employee group then sued the agency.

On Tuesday, a U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issued a memo (PDF) stating that the EPA must comply with PEER’s request by July 2, offering all EPA documents that helped Pruitt reach the conclusion he shared on CNBC last year. If certain documents cannot be handed over, an explanation for their absence must be provided before 11 July.

In Tuesday’s memo, Judge Beryl A. Howell detailed a slew of apologies used by the EPA to justify a denial of PEER’s request. The EPA argued that PEER’s FOIA request was too broad, that it was actually “an inadmissible attempt to force EPA and its administrator to answer questions and take a stance on the climate change debate,” and that it the request would be difficult.

In its own explanation to the court, the EPA argued that complying with PEER’s FOIA request “would require EPA to spend countless hours researching and analyzing a vast amount of material about the effect of human activity on climate change,” which amounted to on “a subjective assessment on which reasonable minds may differ.”

“Epistemological smokescreen”

Judge Howell disagreed with these characterizations, calling the Agency’s objections “hyperbolic” and saying the claim that PEER’s FOIA was unclear was “both misguided and disturbing.”

“The agency asks ‘how can one even know exactly what documents one is relying on in forming one’s convictions?'” the judge wrote in its memorandum. “However, as Plaintiff notes, nothing in the FOIA request seeks information ‘about Administrator Pruitt’s beliefs or how they were formed.'” Instead, the FOIA only asks for documents from the agency on which the administrator relied to formulate its public statement.

The judge also called it “particularly disturbing” that the EPA argued that evidence for a statement of fact by the administrator may be unknowable. wrote.

The judge also accused the EPA of “a thinly veiled attempt to make the request more complex and cumbersome than it is”.

Howell concluded, “When the chief of an agency makes a public statement that appears to contradict ‘the published research and conclusions of’ that agency, the FOIA provides a valuable resource for citizens… informed citizens, vital for the functioning of a democratic society.’”

By akfire1

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