Emails Show Obama Holdovers Feared EPA’s Climate-Change Debate

‘We scientists must better portray not only our certainties but also our uncertainties, and even things we may never know…’

Governors, AGs Ask New EPA Head to Get Agency Off Their Backs

Scott Pruitt/Photo by Gage Skidmore

(Michael Barnes, Liberty Headlines) A slew of newly released emails show Environmental Protection Agency staffers were terrified that Trump-appointed EPA administrator Scott Pruitt wanted to hold a climate change debate last year.

The emails were obtained through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by the Government Accountability Project.

They included scientists and agency officials who were mortified at being challenged in a public forum.

Some ironically said that debating climate change would set their work back years, instead of enhancing a broader understanding of the issue.


Others communicated with a dismissive smugness that often pervades politicized government institutions.

“I liken [opposing debate] to a bar discussion of the best football team of all time—after 4-5 beers,” wrote Dan Costa, former national program director for air, climate and energy.

“And one of the more argumentative participants only watches Australian rules football …” wrote Andy Miller, associate director for climate at the EPA.

Pruitt’s climate-change debate initiative was ultimately killed by White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, out of concern for hyperbolic media blowback.

But the newly released emails show staffers continued to complain about Pruitt’s attempts to separate environmental science from progressive environmental politics as it was personally threatening to top-level Obama administration holdovers.

When Pruitt attempted to address funding loops, where recipients of EPA grants would then serve on EPA policy advising committees—creating a clear conflict of interest to act in ways their grants sponsors favored—staffers became even more threatened.

One top official moaned, “What a great use of Agency resources—investigate a program with zero funding!”

But it was debating climate-change dogma, previously called global warming, that presented the biggest entitlement threats, according to the emails, for self-affirming bureaucrats who came to believe that only they were qualified to run the agency.

The email charges of anti-science fall short, however, when considering that Pruitt’s debate initiative was sparked by Steve Koonin, a physicist at New York University and ardent climate-change consensus supporter.

“Put the ‘consensus’ to a test, and improve public understanding, through an open, adversarial process,” Koonin wrote in a Wall Street Journal editorial in April 2017.

Koonin recommended a “Red Team/Blue Team” debate where the Red Team questions climate consensus, and the Blue Team defends it.

“We scientists must better portray not only our certainties but also our uncertainties, and even things we may never know,” Koonin wrote.

“Not doing so is an advisory malpractice that usurps society’s right to make choices fully informed by risk, economics and values,” he said.

Pruitt publicly embraced the Red Team/Blue Team debate idea in June 2017, arguing that it was important for Americans to have a “true, legitimate, peer-reviewed, objective, transparent discussion about CO2.”

But the free speech, freedom of information point-of-view was summarily rejected by the EPA emailers.

“It’s an interesting discussion,” wrote Miller, adding, “to me it confirms that he doesn’t really understand what he’s getting into with the science.”

“He can set that up, but it’s not anything the EPA could use as the basis for any decisions,” Miller continued.

“Agreed,” Costa replied. “I’ll light a candle tonight.”