It's fair to say people were shocked at the appointment of Scott Pruitt as the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). After all, prior to his appointment he sued the EPA 13 times and was quoted as wanting to get rid of it altogether. There was a chance, some suggested, he may not have the agency's best interest at heart.
Fast forward a year and the response to Pruitt’s continued abuse – and the conspicuous ignoring – of his position as the head of a federal agency has ranged from outrage to eyebrow-raising to resigned eye-rolling, as yet another story comes out about his spending habits or industry pals.
The most ludicrous of all, of course, is when Pruitt went on national TV and declared he wasn’t convinced humans were contributing significantly to climate change – something that isn’t questioned by the vast amount of experts and pretty much all world leaders the world over. It was a ‘you do know who you work for, right?’ moment.
Now, a federal court has ordered the EPA to back up that claim, using the scientific evidence available. Oh, and they’ve got four weeks to do it.
It all started the day after Pruitt’s March 9 appearance on CNBC, where he stated he did not believe it had been proven that human-created CO2 levels were a “primary contributor” to climate change and that there was “tremendous disagreement” about its impact.
On March 10, the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) put in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the agency records “relied upon by Administrator Pruitt in making these statements and any EPA documents that support the conclusions that human activity is not the largest factor driving global climate change.”
The EPA refused to comply with the FOIA request, calling it “an interrogation,” something chief judge of the US District Court for the District of Columbia, Beryl Howell, called on Friday “simply a reach too far.”
In fact, Judge Howell has ordered the EPA to "promptly perform a search and produce the documents" by July 2. She also issued a deadline of July 11 for the agency to provide PEER with an explanation for why it refused to comply and withheld the requested documents.