Report: Trump's pro-fossil fuel transition team worries climate advocates

Dive Brief:

  • Bloomberg BNA reports some climate advocates think individual researchers could come under fire from Donald Trump's energy transition team, based on past actions of the hard-line group assembled by the President-elect.
  • Bloomberg points out that new transition team member David Schnare, a lawyer with the Energy and Environment Legal Institute, once likened using humans in pollution studies to Nazi war crimes, and he and others have used the Freedom of Information Act to seek records from individual scientists.
  • While environmental advocates have been holding out some hope for Trump's policies, his decision to appoint Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt (R) to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has put a damper on the already dour mood. 

Dive Insight:

Trump has sent mixed messages in recent weeks, vowing to undo the Clean Power Plan and exit the Paris climate accord, while also meeting with Al Gore, acknowledging room for a link between global warming and human activity, and indicating he would not be an enemy to renewable energy.

Whatever hope remained was largely dashed yesterday, when Trump named Oklahoma AG Pruitt to head the EPAthe agency Pruitt is currently suing, and of which he is a long-time critic.

Environmental Defense Fund President Fred Krupp issued a statement calling the pick “deeply troubling, adding that Pruitt has "a record of attacking the environmental protections that EPA is charged with enforcing."

Pruitt has been a vocal critic of EPA's power sector regulations under President Obama and has worked with generators and fossil fuel companies to roll back emissions rules. He is one of the leaders of a lawsuit challenging federal carbon rules under the Clean Power Plan. Two years ago, New York Times investigated his ties with energy firms, notably wildcatter Harold Hamm, CEO of Continental Resources who ran Pruitt's reelection campaign in 2013. A year ago, Hamm tried to stifle research from the University of Oklahoma examining links between fracking and the uptick in earthquakes. 

Despite Pruitt's antipathy toward the EPA, he did say in an interview with the Oklahoma StateImpact three years ago that he didn't support abolishing the agency.  The choice of Pruitt would appear throw weight behind the energy policies laid out in a memo sent by the head of President-elect Donald Trump's energy transition team prior to his being tapped.

Days before American Energy Alliance President Thomas Pyle was named head of Donald Trump's energy transition team, he sent a memo outlining what he expected from the incoming administration. Policies included giving states greater say over leasing on federal lands within their borders; moving ahead with pipeline infrastructure, withdrawing from the Paris accord, scrapping the Clean Power Plan, and expediting approvals of liquefied natural gas export licenses.

Bloomberg BNA's story yesterday on other members of the transition team indicates climate scientists are worried about possible reprisals for their work. Lauren Kurtz, executive director of the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund, told Bloomberg that the transition team's members have, in their work with individual organizations, undertook a campaign of "forcing government-funded scientists to open up their e-mails. It’s hard to envision what they’d do inside the government."

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Filed Under: Regulation & Policy
Top image credit: Getty Images/Mark Wilson