Senators to Pruitt: How will you cut CO2 now?

Source: Niina Heikkinen, E&E News reporter • Posted: Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Leading Democrats in the Senate and state attorney general offices are calling for greater transparency and more documents from U.S. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.

The requests follow recent moves by the Trump administration to roll back President Obama’s climate policies. Liberal politicians and some conservatives have expressed concern that EPA has shifted its focus from protecting public health and the environment to shielding the financial interests of the private sector.

Senate Environment and Public Works ranking member Tom Carper (D-Del.), along with 22 other senators, sent a letter to Pruitt on Friday requesting the administrator lay out how the agency will meet legally required controls of carbon emissions without the Clean Power Plan.

In the letter, the senators say EPA has a “clear obligation” to limit CO2 emissions. They cite the 2009 endangerment finding by then-EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, which established that greenhouse gases were harmful to human health and welfare and laid the groundwork for the Clean Power Plan.

They also defended the process for implementing the plan for limiting carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants, saying it was the result of two years of outreach and public comment from states, the electric power sector and the general public.

“The Clean Power Plan provides both long-term certainty for our nation’s power sector, and tools to enable the more than two dozen states that have policies either limiting power sector CO2 emissions, or expanding renewable energy, to integrate those policies with a national program,” the letter reads. “Rescinding the Clean Power Plan also means that Americans will never realize its numerous health and economic benefits.”

The senators requested a clear timeline for when the agency planned to follow through with the directives in President Trump’s “energy independence” executive order, signed late last month, including any alternate plans the administration might have for limiting CO2 emissions.

They also requested any relevant documents outlining how EPA would follow through with the administration’s plans, as well as any evidence that rescinding the Clean Power Plan would lead to the opening, construction or expansion of coal mines and coal-fired power plants.

The same day, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D) filed a Freedom of Information Act request with EPA, seeking documents outlining the administrator’s potential conflicts of interest.

The FOIA included 32 categories of documents, such as documents or communications related to the ethics agreement he filed before being confirmed as EPA administrator.

The attorney general also sought any information on ethics waivers or communication about anything that might disqualify Pruitt for the position or require him to recuse himself from taking action as administrator.

“The public has a right to know whether Administrator Pruitt and EPA are complying with federal ethics laws,” Becerra said in a press release Friday. “Mr. Pruitt’s numerous conflicts of interest merit close examination now that he has taken a direct role in initiating reviews of numerous EPA regulations he sought to undo through litigation in his previous role.”