Description: Action to compel a response by EPA to a Freedom of Information Act request regarding remarks about climate change made by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt in a televised interview.
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility v. EPA
Filing Date Type File Action Taken Summary 06/01/2018 Memorandum Opinion Download Summary judgment granted to plaintiff. Federal Court Ordered EPA to Respond to Request for Documents Supporting Pruitt Statements on Climate Change. A D.C. federal court granted summary judgment to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) in PEER’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) seeking documents that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt relied on when he stated in a March 2017 television interview that “I would not agree that” carbon dioxide generated by humans is “a primary contributor to the global warming that we see,” and that “there’s a tremendous disagreement about of [sic] the impact” of “human activity on the climate.” In the second part of its FOIA request, PEER sought EPA documents supporting the conclusion that human activity is not the primary driver of climate change. The court characterized as “hyperbolic objection” EPA’s argument that PEER’s request was “an impermissible attempt to compel EPA and its Administrator to answer questions and take a position on the climate change debate.” The court said it was “[p]articularly troubling” that EPA based its challenge to the first part of PEER’s request on the premise that “the evidentiary basis for a policy or factual statement by an agency head, including about the scientific factors contributing to climate change, is inherently unknowable.” The court also rejected the argument that the EPA administrator’s public statements were not a proper focus of a FOIA request. Regarding the second part of PEER’s FOIA request, the court said “EPA’s apparent concern about taking a position on climate change is puzzling since EPA has already taken a public position on the causes of climate change” in the D.C. Circuit and Supreme Court, and also suggested that the FOIA request “may be viewed as seeking agency records underpinning a potential change in position signaled by” Pruitt’s remarks. The court also rejected EPA’s claim that the second part of the request failed to reasonably describe the records sought and found that EPA had not demonstrated that responding to the second part of the request would be unduly burdensome. 04/13/2017 Complaint Download Complaint filed. Nonprofit Group Sought Records Providing Basis for EPA Administrator’s Statements About Climate Change. The nonprofit organization Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility filed an action under the Freedom of Information Act requesting that the federal district court for the District of Columbia order EPA to respond to the organization’s request on March 10, 2017 for records relied upon by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt in statements he made about climate change in a televised interview. The complaint cited Pruitt’s statements that he would not agree that human activity was a “primary contributor to the global warming that we see” and that “there’s a tremendous disagreement about of the impact” of “human activity on the climate.” The complaint alleged that these remarks “stand in contrast to the published research and conclusions of the EPA.”