Activists want to use a little-known law passed in 2001 as a tool to prevent the Trump administration from posting what they call false information about climate change on the EPA’s website.
Legal analysts think the 2001 Information Quality Act, signed into law by former President George W. Bush, could become a weapon for scientists and climate advocates worried President Donald Trump will direct the agency to post information that conflicts with research showing a link between human action and global warming.
“Posting blatantly false information on the EPA’s website would violate the Information Quality Act,” Romany Webb, a climate law fellow at Columbia University, told reporters Thursday. “The guidelines clearly state that information disseminated to the public, including via a website, must be substantively accurate.”
The law allows people who object to information presented by a federal agency to request a correction or to have it retracted. They can appeal in a process overseen by an independent inspector general (IG) if the agency denies their request.
The appeal process would be filtered through a panel of political appointees – who will likely be named after the Senate confirms Trump’s EPA pick, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt. Arthur Elkins, a former EPA lawyer appointed by Barack Obama in 2010, is the current EPA IG.
“We have discretionary authority to look at anything we think is important and valuable to the agency’s activities,” Alan Larsen, counsel to the Inspector General, told reporters. “If employees were asked to do something improper … they could bring that to the IG’s office.”
Activists fear Trump, a climate change skeptic, could hurt what they believe is the agency’s mission: fight so-called man-made global warming.
Trump once suggested that climate change is a “hoax created by China” to disrupt the U.S. economy and harm American business. He has since moderated his tone, telling reporters in December that he is “open-minded” on global warming and believes that climate change is probably naturally occurring.
He also promised to “cancel billions in global warming payments to the United Nations” and redirect the funds toward U.S. environmental programs instead, effectively undoing the $3 billion pledge former President Barack Obama made to the U.N.’s Green Climate Fund, a program giving funds to developing countries that reduce carbon emissions.
The agency’s website is currently under review, a Trump spokesman confirmed last week, causing climate activists to worry the administration is planning a rewrite of climate research the agency’s done in the past.
Activists and scientists are brainstorming idea on the heels of the Trump administration’s decision to take down the EPA’s global warming webpage.
The page contains some links to EPA’s data on carbon dioxide (CO2) as well as other greenhouse gas emissions and lists the effects the agency says global warming will have.
EPA was ordered Tuesday to stop handing out grants for projects and research on global warming, air quality monitoring and education, and the agency instructed employees not to discuss the spending freeze outside the agency, according to anonymous leaks to multiple media outlets.
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