Tuesday, June 19, 2018

White House Called Pruitt's Climate Plans 'Out Of Control'

EPA boss Scott Pruitt's idea for a climate science debate met resistance in the Trump White House. (Credit: Andrew Harnik/Associated Press) Click to Enlarge.
Last summer, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt was publicly talking up his plans to launch a debate aimed at poking holes in mainstream climate science.

His policy chief, Samantha Dravis, got an email from President Trump's energy adviser Mike Catanzaro asking for an urgent meeting to talk about Pruitt's "red team" climate science review.

"There are a lot of reports about EPA's planning on this," Catanzaro wrote July 25.  "None of it is being run by us.  This seems to be getting out of control."
'Push and pull'
With the red-team approach, Pruitt's intention "was to really attack the science behind the endangerment finding," a former administration official told E&E News last week.

The endangerment finding on greenhouse gases is a scientific determination that underpins EPA's climate regulations, and many conservatives hope a red-team exercise will be used to unravel that finding.  "Pruitt really believed that a red-team, blue-team exercise would go to the heart of challenging the science behind all this," the former official said.

First he'd have to get past the White House.

There was a constant "push and pull" between EPA and the White House last year over the red team, the former official said.  The White House was "just trying to stall it."

After Pruitt's aides circulated the draft release on Nov. 4 last year, Pruitt's chief of staff, Ryan Jackson, sent it in the body of an email saying, "I think we are set.  Good?"

But the next day, Jackson received an email from sooners7@epa.gov — an address reportedly used by Pruitt.  "Let's discuss.  Needs revision," the email said.

The New York Times reported that Trump's chief of staff, John Kelly, learned about the planned news release and demanded that the red-team debate be delayed until top officials could discuss the issue.

"White House officials saw the draft press release from EPA and shut it down," someone familiar with the red-team process told E&E News last week.

In early December, EPA officials were still discussing the red-team effort behind the scenes.  "We have two ways ahead to announce this and get this underway," Jackson wrote to several agency officials, including EPA air chief Bill Wehrum, on Dec. 5.  President Trump had privately told Pruitt he supported the approach.

It appears as though there was a plan for Wehrum to announce the effort in December.

Mandy Gunasekara, principal deputy assistant administrator in the air office, circulated a "draft charge statement for RTBT" — an apparent reference to red team, blue team — on Dec. 8.

"Ideally we will get [Pruitt's] final edits and okay on this before he leaves for Morocco so Bill can make the official RTBT announcement on Tuesday," she wrote.

But the next week, Wehrum and other EPA aides were summoned to the White House, where they were told by Catanzaro, deputy chief of staff Rick Dearborn and others that the red team was "on hold".  Catanzaro and Dearborn have since left the administration.

Read more at White House Called Pruitt's Climate Plans 'Out Of Control'

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