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Dec. 6 — Climate scientists both in and out of the government could face new harassment and scrutiny if recent additions to President-elect Donald Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency transition team portend the direction the agency will take, environmental advocates said.
The latest additions to Trump’s EPA transition team, announced late Dec. 5 after Trump met with Al Gore to discuss climate change, have a history of targeting individual climate scientists, using open records laws in an effort to discredit their work, according to environmental advocates who said the latest names offer further evidence the Obama administration’s greenhouse gas regulations are in jeopardy.
New transition team additions David Schnare, general counsel of the Energy and Environment Legal Institute who once compared pollution studies using human subjects to Nazi war crimes, and David T. Stevenson, policy director at the Center for Energy Competitiveness at Delaware’s Caesar Rodney Institute, have both used Freedom of Information Act requests to seek records from scientists working on climate change.
“These groups as public interest groups, they have been all about transparency or so they say. They’re really about forcing government-funded scientists to open up their e-mails. It’s hard to envision what they’d do inside the government,” Lauren Kurtz, executive director of the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund at Columbia Law School in New York, which helps defend climate scientists, told Bloomberg BNA.
The other additions to Trump’s transition team include David Kreutzer from the Heritage Foundation, Austin Lipari from the Federalist Society and George Sugiyama of the Sugiyama Group LLC, who previously served on the Republican staff of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
Trump’s EPA transition team, headed by Myron Ebell, director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, already includes the self-described “Mother in Love with Fracking” Amy Oliver Cooke, executive vice president and director of the Energy Policy Center for the Independence Institute, a right-leaning think tank in Golden, Colo.
While it’s unclear what direction Trump’s EPA will ultimately take without a nominee for administrator, environmental advocates said the transition team is worrisome.
“Those people have been hired to do this work for a long time by very specific special interests so you’d have to assume they’re carrying that ethos into the EPA,” Andrew Rosenberg, director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, told Bloomberg BNA.
Schnare, who spent 33 years at the EPA, filed a lawsuit in 2012 challenging agency-funded studies of human exposure to airborne fine particulate matter, equating those studies with Nazi experiments on Jews during the Holocaust.
“Dr. Schnare more than abhors current governmental experimentation on humans for the purposes of determining the effect of poisons. It is not only that such activity dishonors those who should have been the last to have suffered in such a manner, it sickens and angers him. It causes him to stand up for those who could not and cannot,” Schnare wrote in the lawsuit, which was dismissed in 2013 for lack of jurisdiction.
Trump may have publicly softened his stance on climate change since calling it a Chinese hoax—he recently told the New York Times he acknowledges some “connectivity” between human actions and climate change—but members of his EPA transition team downplay the link between human activity and a warming planet or have opposed state measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or prepare for sea-level rise.
In a November 2014 guest post in Forbes, Schnare called the social cost of carbon, a tool the federal government uses to monetize the impact of climate change, “another highly discretionary government means to the end of centralized control.”
Kreutzer in The Daily Signal in 2015 had argued the EPA had failed to account for the benefits of climate change when it estimated the benefits of its methane standards for the oil and natural gas industry. He also said that California’s plans to cut carbon dioxide emissions 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2030 would lead to “energy-strangling policies” without providing tangible benefits for the climate.
The Energy and Environment Legal Institute has also targeted a coalition of state attorneys general and environmental advocates known as the Green 20, which prompted investigations into fossil fuel companies such as Exxon Mobil Corp. over whether they have defrauded investors by downplaying the effects climate change will have on their businesses.
To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Childers in Washington, D.C. at AChilders@bna.com
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