Records show EPA chief’s role in removing climate web pages

Records show EPA chief’s role in removing climate web pages
© Getty

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittNew EPA chief draws sharp contrast to Pruitt Overnight Energy: House to vote on anti-carbon tax measure | Dem says EPA obstructed 'politically charged' FOIA requests | GOP looks to overhaul endangered species law Top Dem: EPA slowed ‘politically charged’ FOIA requests MORE was personally involved in the process to remove sections on climate change from the agency’s website, records obtained by a green group show.

The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) said the records it obtained via the Freedom of Information Act show a high degree of involvement by Pruitt in the April process of removing climate sections and replacing several of them with a section on President TrumpDonald John TrumpSasse: Trump shouldn't dignify Putin with Helsinki summit Top LGBT group projects message onto Presidential Palace in Helsinki ahead of Trump-Putin summit Hillary Clinton to Trump ahead of Putin summit: 'Do you know which team you play for?' MORE’s executive order to roll back the Clean Power Plan.

Environmentalists have been highly critical of the EPA’s decision to remove the pages, some of which still haven’t been replaced and instead forward to a page about the removal process.

ADVERTISEMENT

In one April email to colleagues in the EPA’s communications office, Lincoln Ferguson, an adviser to Pruitt, asks how close they are to removing and replacing the Clean Power Plan section.

“The Administrator would like it to go up ASAP. He also has several other changes that need to take place,” Ferguson wrote.

J.P. Freire, then the head of communications, responded, “You can tell him we ... are just finishing up.”

Ferguson then asked if the change could happen that day: “Just asking because he is asking.”

In another email change, Susan Fagan in the EPA’s Office of Environmental Information asks another staffer if people searching for the Clean Power Plan can be directed to the section on Trump’s climate executive order, which the staffer obliged.

The EDF said the records further prove the danger in hiding the climate information from the public.

“Obscuring information thwarts meaningful public participation in EPA’s work to protect Americans’ health and safety,” Ben Levitan, an EDF attorney, said in a statement. “It reinforces serious concerns that Pruitt has predetermined that he will repeal the Clean Power Plan, and that the current rulemaking process is a sham.”

EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox defended the changes and said that the old information is still available to the public.

“We are constantly updating our website to reflect new initiatives and projects of the agency,” he said. “Of course the site will be reflective of the current administration’s priorities — with that said, all the content from the previous administration is still easily accessible and publicly available-through the banner across the top of our website: www.epa.gov.”