Climate advocates and activists tried to teach Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Scott Pruitt about climate change even as the Trump administration official moved forward with the mass-dismantling of Obama-era climate initiatives and regulations. New documents show that during Pruitt’s first year, various individuals and organizations attempted to set up meetings with the official and his closest aides to discuss climate science. Some also sent him books about the topic, including Global Warming for Dummies.
In an email sent March 10, 2017, the director of science policy at the American Statistical Association (ASA), Steve Pierson, asked Pruitt for a meeting, according to documents obtained by the Sierra Club through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). In the exchange, Pierson requested that the official meet with scientists for the seventh annual Climate Science Day. The annual gathering brings scientists together with lawmakers and staff to engage on climate change.
“We would like to discuss climate science with you and offer our help to you on this issue. We have no policy ask and respect that science is but one input of many to policymaking,” wrote Pierson. “We also recognize that policymaking is beyond the expertise of our members. Our goal is for the [sic] you to be informed by the best available science, which we believe is provided by scientific associations.”
In addition to the ASA, event participants included organizations like the American Geophysical Union and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Pierson followed up a week later to see whether Pruitt was available. A scheduler for Pruitt, Sydney Hupp, forwarded the message to other officials, including the EPA’s deputy associate administrator for policy, David Kreutzer, who told Pierson that he would meet with him in Pruitt’s place.
Kreutzer requested that the meeting be limited to five people unless “you just want to deliver a letter and make a statement” in which case the number would be irrelevant. Pierson confirmed to ThinkProgress via email that the meeting took place on March 20, 2017.
In a separate exchange, Yale professor Doug Kysar reached out on March 7, 2017 to then-associate EPA administrator for the Office of Policy Samantha Dravis asking if she might be able to come visit one of his classes and “discuss the fate of the Clean Power Plan and other domestic policy issues” in April of that year.
“The course is on climate change law and policy and is offered for executive MBA students,” Kysar wrote. “It would be a wonderful benefit to us if you were able to join us for all or part of the conversation. We would, of course, pay your reasonable travel expenses.”
Dravis, at the time a key Pruitt aide, said that she would be interested, as long as there were no ethics barriers. Kysar later followed up to see if she had “been able to get a green light” on April 7, seemingly without a response. In an email to ThinkProgress, Kysar said Dravis ultimately did not attend the class, although he was unclear as to the reasons.
In addition to asking Pruitt and his staff for meetings with a focus on climate science and official policy, the documents also reveal that advocates have sent a number of books about climate change to EPA offices. Titles ranged from oft-cited classic works like Rachel Carson’s landmark Silent Spring to two copies of the explainer book Global Warming for Dummies, Politico reported Saturday. A copy of Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato si‘ , was also mailed.
Emails contained scans of the titles, at least 11 of which have been sent to the EPA. “As a 27-year-old, my peers and I must live on this planet far longer than many who are in positions to make decisions about its future. Please keep us in mind as you do your work,” read a note to Pruitt accompanying Silent Spring.
Another note, attached to a copy of Pope Francis’ climate encyclical Laudito Si’ read: “All the best in your new job. May this give some good ideas.”
Such efforts, however, appear to have done little to sway Pruitt’s EPA, which has prioritized conservative organizations and figures over their progressive counterparts.
Climate-denying think tanks like the Heartland Institute and the Heritage Foundation have maintained a close line to Pruitt and a ThinkProgress review found that the EPA administrator gave nearly ten speeches to such right-wing research hubs that question the scientific consensus on climate change during his first year in office. Many received funding from conservative backers like the Koch brothers and the Mercer family.
Lawmakers with similar viewpoints have also seen favor from Pruitt. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), one of the most hardline climate deniers in Congress, has long pushed for unpopular “secret science” rules requiring the EPA to rely only on scientific studies whose underlying data is made public. The approach has been strongly discouraged by experts and the EPA’s own staff, but the agency has embraced Smith’s fringe views.
Emails and books from climate activists and advocates indicate that, at least during Pruitt’s first year in office, efforts were still ongoing to challenge the administrator’s views on climate science and provide him with more literature and information on the topic. But other mail sent to the EPA during this period reflected views more in line with the administration’s approach to climate science.
“Mr. Pruitt, at some point someone must just come straight out and say ‘CO2 cannot cause ‘global warming’, ‘climate change’, or any environmental catastrophe as claimed by Al Gore and his anti-fossil fuel cronies,” reads one letter dated April 4, 2017 that references the former politician known for his environmental activism.
An Inconvenient Truth, a popular book authored by Gore about global warming, is also among the titles climate advocates have sent to the EPA.