U.S. group Sierra Club seeks probe of EPA’s Pruitt over CO2 comments

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By Emily Flitter | NEW YORK

NEW YORK U.S. environmental group the Sierra
Club has asked the Environmental Protection Agency’s inspector
general to investigate whether the agency’s head, Scott Pruitt,
violated internal policies when he said he did not believe
carbon dioxide was a major contributor to climate change,
according to a letter seen by Reuters on Wednesday.

Lawyers for the Sierra Club wrote to the EPA’s Office of
Inspector General on Tuesday asking the independent watchdog to
check whether Pruitt violated the EPA’s 2012 Scientific
Integrity Policy when he told a CNBC interviewer on March 9, “I
would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global
warming that we see.”

The request ramps up tension between the U.S. environmental
movement and the administration of President Donald Trump, who
has called global warming a hoax meant to weaken the U.S.
economy and has packed his Cabinet with people who question the
science of climate change.

An overwhelming majority of scientists think that carbon
dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels is a major
contributor to global climate change, triggering sea level rise,
droughts and more frequent violent storms.

“It’s pretty unprecedented to have the head of the EPA
contradicting basic scientific facts,” Sierra Club Senior
Attorney Elena Saxonhouse told Reuters on Wednesday.

In the letter, the Sierra Club’s lawyers said Pruitt’s
comments contradicted a “comprehensive review” of scientific
research on climate change and appeared to be politically

The EPA website says its policy is meant to maintain “a
culture of scientific integrity for all its employees,” and
requires EPA officials and staff to ensure the agency’s work
respects the findings of the broader scientific community.

“Administrator Pruitt’s comments are perfectly in keeping
with the scientific integrity policy,” EPA spokesman John Konkus
said in an email. “There is an ongoing scientific debate on
climate change, its causes and its effect. That debate should be
encouraged as the Administrator has done, not discouraged as
Sierra Club is attempting to do.”

A spokeswoman for the EPA’s inspector general said in an
email the IG’s office could neither confirm nor deny
investigation requests.

As Oklahoma’s attorney general, Pruitt sued the EPA more
than a dozen times while accepting campaign donations from the
energy industry. Emails released on Feb. 22 by an Oklahoma Court
showed Pruitt also used language provided by an energy company
in one of his challenges of the EPA over methane emissions

Sierra Club’s Saxonhouse said the group believed that the
EPA’s scientific integrity policy applied to political
appointees as well as career EPA staff, but said it was unclear
how the agency could enforce it.

“It shouldn’t just be a piece of paper or some words on a
website. It’s intended to protect the public from bad
decision-making that’s not based on real facts,” she said.

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