A U.S. district judge has ordered the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to release any documents used by Administrator Scott Pruitt to make his public statement that human behavior is not a “primary contributor” to climate change.
The chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Beryl Howell, said in a ruling issued last Friday but first widely reported this week that the EPA had to comply with a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed last year by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
PEER requested any documents Pruitt used to inform a statement he made on climate change last year.
“I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see,” Pruitt said during an appearance on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” last March.
He also said on the show that “there’s a tremendous disagreement” on the impact of “human activity on the climate.”
Howell gave the EPA until July 2 to search for and find the documents, which should then be disclosed “promptly to the plaintiff.”
She also set a July 11 deadline to “produce to the plaintiff, an explanation for any documents withheld in full or in part.”
An EPA spokesperson did not immediately return The Hill’s request for comment.
The EPA had argued that the FOIA request was overbroad and an undue burden. The agency also claimed that Pruitt’s statement was a personal opinion and not an EPA policy.
“The public statements of an agency head about the causes of climate change, even if those statements do not reflect an ‘Agency decision,’ but merely ‘personal opinion,’ may nonetheless guide the agency’s regulatory efforts and, to the extent any agency records provide the basis for such public statements, those agency records are a perfectly proper focus of a FOIA request,” Howell wrote in her ruling.
BY JACQUELINE THOMSEN – 06/07/18