REPORT: Rumors Of The Death Of Scott Pruitt’s Climate Debate Were Greatly Exaggerated

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Sources inside the EPA are denying reports claiming the White House has put the skids to a potential public debate regarding global warming, according to a report Wednesday from E&E News.

White House aides suggested using public comments on petitions asking the agency to revisit the Obama administration’s endangerment finding, the report notes, which was based on a source inside a meeting on the matter in December. The new idea could satisfy EPA Chief Scott Pruitt, who has long-wanted a public debate about the science of global warming.

Pruitt has continually dismissed previous reports from E&E in January and The New York Times earlier this month that the White House dinged the idea. “It’s very important that I think the American people have a transparent, objective discussion about this issue,” he told Bloomberg Wednesday about rumors White House chief of staff John Kelly killed the high-profile exercise.

“The vehicle by which we achieve that is something yet to be determined,” Pruitt added. The new concept would accept public comments on petitions the agency’s underlying authority to regulate greenhouse gases in cars, power plants and other sources, E&E’s report noted Wednesday. It would allow the EPA to determine “where the arguments are supporting and rejecting the science,” according to the source.

Study Finds Global Warming Temps Were Overestimated 

Pruitt, who famously sued the agency more than a dozen times as Oklahoma’s attorney general, spent more than a year championing the notion of holding military-style exercises to question the validity of climate change. He even floated the idea of televising the debates, all to bring transparency to the science.

Military and intelligence agencies use a similar debate tactic to expose vulnerabilities to strategic systems. The tactic would give needed balance to climate science, a field of research many believe has been monopolized by activists, skeptics say. Some in the administration were enthusiastic supporters, however, Kelly and others were skeptical of the proposal.

White House officials were in agreement that Pruitt’s idea was unwise, according to a March 9 report from TheNYT. Their main objection was that a public debate on the hot-button issue of climate science could create an unnecessary distraction as Trump seeks to pull back elements of former President Barack Obama’s environmental legacy.

Some inside the administration worried the debate would muddy the waters of Pruitt’s de-regulatory mission. The EPA finalized 22 deregulatory actions in 2017, which could save $1 billion in regulatory costs. The agency is working on another 44 deregulatory actions, including the repeal of the Clean Power Plan and Clean Water Rule.

Taking comment on the petitions would be easier. Several homeowners filed one petition the day of Trump’s inauguration, according to E&E’s report Wednesday. The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a free market group based in Washington, D.C., filed another petition in February of 2017.

To open a public debate, the agency could simply issue a notice asking for public comment on the petition. The move would not include obligations for EPA to take regulatory action, and it could score the administration some political points on the right.

“We would be happy if the EPA took our petition and the other petitions for reopening or reconsidering the endangerment finding and if they decided to consider those petitions in a public way,” Myron Ebell, director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the CEI, told reporters Wednesday, shortly after E&E published its report.

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