An Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) panel ruled Administrator Scott Pruitt did not violate the agency’s scientific integrity policy for publicly disagreeing with “established science” on global warming.
Office of the Science Advisor head Thomas Sinks wrote EPA’s science integrity policy did not impinge on the “freedom to express one’s opinion about science,” according to a memo obtained by Washington Examiner columnist Philip Wegmann.
It’s a somewhat silent victory for Pruitt and free speech.
“In short, the EPA told the green group to stop trying to silence their director,” Wegmann wrote in a Tuesday column.
The Sierra Club filed a complaint against Pruitt with EPA in March over comments Pruitt made on CNBC. Sierra Club Elena Saxonhouse said Pruitt violated agency policy “by publicly denying that carbon pollution is driving the climate crisis.”
Pruitt told CNBC anchor Joe Kernen he thought “measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact.”
“So no, I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see,” Pruitt said before calling for more research into the topic.
The media went wild, and environmentalists were quick to call for Pruitt to resign over expressing his opinions on television.
“Administrator Pruitt’s statements thus not only contradict established science but also the EPA’s efforts to communicate that science to the public,” Saxonhouse wrote in her complaint asking for an investigation be undertaken.
EPA’s Scientific Integrity Panel conducted an investigation but found the Sierra Club was wrong in its interpretation of agency science policy.
The panel found EPA’s scientific integrity policy is meant to foster debate, and the rule encourages those who disagree with certain scientific conclusions to be forward and open about it. It’s not meant to silence dissenters.
“Expressing an opinion about science is not a violation of the EPA Scientific Integrity Policy,” the integrity panel ruled, according to Sink’s memo to the Sierra Club.
“Indeed the Scientific Integrity Policy — in the spirit of promoting vigorous debate and inquiry — specifically encourages employees to express their opinions should the employees disagree with the scientific data, scientific expressions, or scientific conclusions,” the panel rules.
“We also note that, in his remarks, the administrator did not suppress or alter agency scientific findings,” the panel ruled.
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