Sierra Club says EPA's Pruitt flouting integrity rules

Environment group puts head of the EPA under fire for his charge against "the climate crisis."
By Daniel J. Graeber  |  March 16, 2017 at 6:36 AM
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March 16 (UPI) -- Following a review of fuel economy standards from the White House, the Sierra Club said it filed a complaint against the EPA for violating integrity rules.

President Donald Trump vowed during a visit to the American Center for Mobility near Detroit to review, or possibly revoke, guidelines submitted by his predecessor that were aimed at putting more clean vehicles on the road. Former President Barack Obama during his second term in office issued a mandate that called for an increase in fuel economy to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.

The Obama administration said the goal of the mandate was to curb greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector, the economic sector that accounts for the majority of harmful emissions.

Trump met on the sidelines of his visit to Michigan with EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, who the Sierra Club accused of violating the EPA's scientific integrity policy in "multiple ways."

In a filing to the EPA's inspector general, the Sierra Club said Pruitt's statements questioning some of the causes of climate change undermine the EPA's stated mission.

"Pruitt clearly violated the Environmental Protection Agency's Scientific Integrity Policy by publicly denying that carbon pollution is driving the climate crisis" Elena Saxonhouse, a senior attorney for the Sierra Club, said in a statement. "If the EPA's Scientific Integrity Policy is to have any meaning then this type of clear violation must be strictly enforced and resolved."

Naming Pruitt as EPA administrator concerned some critics of the Trump administration as he's leading an agency he once sued while serving as Oklahoma's attorney general.

Earlier this month, the Environmental Protection Agency under Pruitt said it was abandoning measures that called for the disclosure of methane emissions from oil and natural gas wells. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, though a handful of states argued the measure would inhibit the economic benefits of the oil and gas industry.

An order from the EPA under Obama said methane is among the more prevalent greenhouse gases emitted in the United States and nearly 30 percent of those emissions come from oil and natural gas production.

After Trump's announcements in Michigan, U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., took to Twitter to say the president was waging war on the environment and wants "Pruitt to make our strong fuel economy emissions standards his latest victim."

A federal guideline from the EPA and U.S. Department of Energy on fuel standards for model year 2017 vehicles finds fuel-efficient vehicles would reduce U.S. dependence on foreign petroleum, which would align with Trump's pledge on the campaign trail to make the country energy independent.

From Michigan, Trump said the review of Obama-era standards was about eliminating "industry-killing regulations" that threaten U.S. companies and workers. Pruitt said in a statement the standards are too costly and potentially unrealistic.

"This thorough review [of the Obama-era mandate] will help ensure that this national program is good for consumers and good for the environment," he said in a statement.

The Sierra Club in its filling accused Pruitt of "misrepresenting his own agency's science," adding there is "evidence of political motivation."

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