Scott Pruitt has his own version of science and is using it to make decisions that will impact every living thing on the planet. Now a federal judge is requiring that he produce evidence to support his claim that human activities, such as extracting and burning fossil fuels, clear-cutting forests, paving vast sections of the country, fracking, and pouring millions of gallons of chemicals into agricultural lands, have no impact on the environment or climate change.
Critics of the head of the Environmental Protection Act say that Pruitt will not be able to produce such evidence, because no such evidence exists. Meanwhile, peer-reviewed evidence collected by thousands of scientists over many decades does exist to support that claim that human activity has a significant negative impact on the environment and is the main cause of climate change.
But maybe Pruitt knows something all those scientists don’t. Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, or PEER, filed a Freedom of Information Act to find out. The group requested “EPA documents that support the conclusion that human activity is not the largest factor driving global climate change.” The chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Beryl Howell, has ordered the agency to comply.
“Particularly troubling is the apparent premise of this agency challenge to the FOIA request, namely: that the evidentiary basis for a policy or factual statement by an agency head, including about the scientific factors contributing to climate change, is inherently unknowable,” said Howell. Pruitt will have to produce evidence by July 2—evidence that refutes the science that the Obama administration used to create its regulations on environmental issues, regulations that Pruitt has been dismantling.
“I expect the documents will show the scientific case for Pruitt’s claim is not only thin, but positively anorexic,” said Michael Gerrard, director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University. “They may reveal even greater contacts with the climate denial community than has already been shown.
“This could also strengthen the challenges to some of the deregulatory actions by the administration, showing they have no valid basis.”
Scott Pruitt has been in the spotlight for a series of somewhat ridiculous personal expenses (paid by taxpayers) such as “tactical pants” ($3,000), 12 fancy personalized pens ($130 each), a soundproof telephone booth ($43,000), and a 24/7 security detail ($4.6 million) as well as well as first class travel around the world, art leased from the Smithsonian for his office, cheap housing and an all-around lavish lifestyle funded by taxpayers. Even Republicans are questioning Pruitt’s spending habits. “This doesn’t look good,” Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said.
Despite the many scandals of Pruitt, he remains immune to consequences, mainly because he has been effective in advancing Trump’s environmental agenda. The personal scandals may even serve as a distraction as Pruitt makes enormous changes to U.S. science and environmental policy.
“I think that the scale of impact is pretty extraordinary, with federal regulatory measures that will impact every single person in the United States, when it comes to things like pesticides and toxic chemicals and air pollution and water pollution. The consequences of it are so enormous,” said Eric Lipton, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter at the New York Times, who has been following Pruitt’s activities at the EPA.
National Geographic is keeping a running list of the ways Pruitt and Trump are working to damage the environment. Pruitt’s grotesque ethics violations have a financial impact on taxpayers. But behind the scenes, his collaborations with polluters will ultimately have a much more dire impact.