EPA chief sued for ‘spouting deceptive climate pseudo-science’

EPA staff concerned about possible data purge

The EPA website clearly discloses how greenhouse gases affect the climate.

Staff Report

EPA administrator Scott Pruitt may have to back up his false claims on greenhouse gases and climate change in court. A lawsuit filed April 13 by the watchdog group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility wants the agency head to show studies backing up his statements that call into question the role of CO2 emissions in global warming. The lawsuit also seeks to determine whether EPA possesses a single study that supports Mr. Pruitt’s stance. 

The lawsuit came in response to Pruitt’s appearance on a television show when he stated, “I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.” He also said “there’s a tremendous disagreement about of the impact” of “human activity on the climate….”

The next day PEER filed a FOIA request asking to see the studies upon which Pruitt based his claim and also to see if there is any EPA scientific finding that human activity is not the largest factor driving global climate change. Notably, EPA’s own climate change webpage cites as “basic information” that:

“Humans are largely responsible for recent climate change. Over the past century, human activities have released large amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The majority of greenhouse gases come from burning fossil fuels to produce energy, although deforestation, industrial processes, and some agricultural practices also emit gases into the atmosphere.”

“This lawsuit tells Mr. Pruitt to put or shut up – produce his evidence or stop spouting deceptive climate pseudo-science,” said PEER attorney Adam Carlesco, who filed suit after EPA failed to produce the requested materials within FOIA’s statutory deadlines.  “His confirmation as EPA Administrator does not entitle Mr. Pruitt to ignore existing agency research and proclaim his own set of alternative facts.”

Additionally, his statements are contrary to official EPA policy as articulated in the agency’s EPA’s 2009 Endangerment Finding, which declares that carbon dioxide is a primary contributor to climate change, endangering the public health and welfare.  This finding was based on a comprehensive review of available science and still remains EPA’s official policy.

“Mr. Pruitt spoke on television in his official capacity and must do so in a manner that honestly represents EPA’s scientific findings,” said Carlesco, noting that any other EPA employee would be subject to disciplinary action for presenting personal views as official policy. “Even if Mr. Pruitt is presenting his personal opinion, he must specify that he is not speaking for the agency – a disclaimer he did not make.”

EPA’s Scientific Integrity Policy requires all employees to “communicate science with honesty, integrity, and transparency” and enjoins employees to “not knowingly misrepresent, exaggerate, or downplay areas of scientific uncertainty.”  Last month, the Sierra Club filed a formal complaint that Pruitt’s “Squawk Box” statements violate this policy.  Pruitt, however, has not committed to respect EPA’s Scientific Integrity Policy.  Meanwhile, agency employees report concerns that Administrator Pruitt will order a purge of EPA scientific work that conflicts with his political positions.  

Read the PEER lawsuit

See EPA’s Scientific Integrity Policy

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