For a decade, he has used open-records laws to pry loose some of the EPA’s secrets. Now Christopher Horner is on the inside, part of President-elect Donald Trump’s landing team at the Environmental Protection Agency, preparing the way for the next administration.
Mr. Horner is one of the Trump transition’s “landing teams,” who are deployed to each department and agency to learn about the latest operations and any in-the-works policies, with the goal of a smooth changeover come Jan. 20.
Some agency transitions can be friendly, and others are more hostile. The appointment of Mr. Horner to the nine-member EPA team suggests that will be one of the latter.
It’s an agency he has pursued relentlessly. One notable target was President Obama’s first EPA administrator, Lisa P. Jackson, whom he exposed as using a secret email alias, “Richard Windsor,” to conduct official government business. Soon after that revelation, Ms. Jackson stepped down.
Mr. Horner also has sought to expose what he sees as improper ties between environmentalists and the EPA, unearthing reams of emails showing backdoor communications, including on private email addresses, between agency bigwigs and activists plotting their next joint policy moves.
All of that has been done from the outside, using the powerful but limited Freedom of Information Act to pry loose what he could.
“He’s been looking to get into this bank vault over the years, and finally somebody just opened the door up and let him walk in,” said Michael McKenna, a Republican Party energy strategist and friend of Mr. Horner’s who previously worked on the Trump transition team.
Mr. Horner declined to speak to The Washington Times for this article, saying he was forbidden by the transition protocols.
The most recent targets in his FOIA battles have been state officials — a number of liberal attorneys general who, he says, teamed up with environmental activists to try to punish climate change skeptics by launching investigations into their activities.
It’s unclear how EPA employees are reacting to the news that Mr. Horner will be on the inside and working alongside them. But his critics outside the agency say they don’t see him as a constructive force.
“Chris Horner has a history of targeting individual scientists and government employees and, through his years of FOIA work, has sought to pull phrases out of context to embarrass people in lieu of actually implementing policy,” said Lauren Kurtz, executive director of the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund. “If the goal at EPA is to work on policy solutions — rather than target individual civil servants — he is an odd and likely ineffective choice.”
Other environmentalists appear to have been shocked into silence. A number of high-profile groups that have battled Mr. Horner over the years have not responded to requests for comment about his appointment.