EPA staffers were upset when Pruitt wanted to host a public debate on climate change: report

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) staffers emailed one another expressing concern and anger in 2017 when then-Administrator Scott Pruitt suggested hosting a public debate on human-caused climate change, The Daily Beast reported on Wednesday. 

Top scientists and officials at the EPA expressed fear that a public debate about the scientific consensus around climate change could harm how the scientific data are regarded by policymakers, according to private emails obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit from the Government Accountability Project and reported by The Daily Beast

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Andy Miller, the associate director for climate at the EPA, wrote to his colleagues in June that he was worried that if the debate was "not handled in an appropriate manner, it could have enormous detrimental impacts on how science is evaluated for the purpose of use in policy development and decisions." 

Pruitt at the time was publicly floating the possibility of the EPA hosting a debate between scientists over the degree to which climate change is caused by human activity. At one point, reports emerged that the White House and EPA were recruiting scientists to argue for greater skepticism.

The EPA did not immediately respond to The Hill's request for comment.

Miller, when reached by The Hill, declined to comment.

"I liken it to a bar discussion of the best football team of all time — after 4-5 beers,” Dan Costa, the former national program director for air, climate and energy at the EPA, wrote to a colleague in July.

"And one of the more argumentative participants only watches Australian rules football...,” Miller replied.

Pruitt's idea was ultimately quashed by White House chief of staff John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE, who raised concerns about possible blowback, The Daily Beast reported.

Miller on June 12 wrote in an email, “It’s an interesting discussion, and to me it confirms that he doesn’t really understand what he’s getting into with the science."

"If people think CSPAN is boring, make them watch a bunch of scientists arguing about the level of uncertainty associated with an ensemble of model results for different scenarios," Miller wrote. "He’s looking at this as though it were evidence presented at a hearing or trial. He can set that up, but it’s not anything the EPA could use as the basis for any decisions.”

Costa in an email to Miller later said he hoped EPA scientists could show Pruitt that the “outcome [of this debate] won’t be accepted as scientifically valid.”

Kelly reportedly nixed the idea several months later, in the fall.

Pruitt resigned from his position in July after months of high-profile controversies regarding his spending, ethics and management at the agency.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpProsecutors investigating Trump inaugural fund, pro-Trump super PAC for possible illegal foreign donations: NY Times George Conway: Why take Trump's word over prosecutors' if he 'lies about virtually everything' Federal judge says lawsuit over Trump travel ban waivers will proceed MORE has repeatedly cast doubt on the scientific consensus that human activity is the primary driver of climate change, even in the face of a government report last month citing a dire need for stronger actions to fight global warming.