Embattled EPA Director Scott Pruitt went on national TV to announce on behalf of the US government that "I would not agree [CO2 is] a primary contributor to the global warming that we see… There's a tremendous disagreement about the degree of the impact [of] human activity on the climate."
So the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) filed a Freedom of Information Act request asking the EPA to turn over documents Pruitt relied on to form this view, which is wildly out of step with the scientific consensus.
Instead of complying, the EPA refused, so PEER sued. In court, the EPA argued that complying with the request would be unduly burdensome, consuming "countless hours researching and analyzing a vast trove of material on the effect of human activity on climate change" which is "a subjective assessment upon which reasonable minds can differ."
The judge ruled against the EPA and slammed them in his decision, calling the EPA's response an "epistemological smokescreen" that was "both misplaced and troubling."
Pruitt is a trumpist and thus a subscriber to Norman Vincent Peale's fake it till you make it doctrine in which you just insist that you are right until you are either revealed to be right or you get bored and start claiming you're right about something else, or possibly until you die.
"The agency asks 'how is one to even know precisely what documents one relies on in forming one's beliefs?'" the judge wrote in her brief. "As the plaintiff points out, however, nothing in the FOIA request seeks information 'about Administrator Pruitt's beliefs or how they were formed.'" Instead, the FOIA only requests any agency documents that the administrator relied on to formulate his public statement.
The judge also called it "particularly troubling" that the EPA argued that evidence for a factual statement by the Administrator can be unknowable. "EPA's strained attempt to raise an epistemological smokescreen will not work here to evade its obligations under the FOIA," Judge Howell wrote.
The judge also accused the EPA of engaging in "a thinly veiled effort to make the request more complex and burdensome than it is."
Howell concluded: "When the head of an agency makes a public statement that appears to contradict 'the published research and conclusions of' that agency, the FOIA provides a valuable tool for citizens… Compliance with such a request would help 'ensure an informed citizenry, vital to the functioning of a democratic society.'"
Judge to EPA: Produce any documents you have to back up Pruitt's climate claims [Megan Guess/Ars Technica]