The Sierra Club and the State of California moved separately in American courts to block what both plaintiffs fear are stealth campaigns by elements of the Trump administration to undo climate and other environmental protection measures.
Sierra filed suit on Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, seeking to force the U.S. Energy Department to identify the groups it consulted with in conducting a study of the U.S. electricity grid, Reuters reports.
Energy Secretary Rick Perry ordered the study this spring, in terms that implied he expected it to return a finding that integrating more electricity from renewable sources might endanger the stability of America’s power grid. The assertion, taken as an argument to preserve so-called ‘baseload’ fossil-fired generating stations, has been widely contested by experts, but some observers fear the study’s final report may reflect the administration’s politics rather than the facts.
The Sierra Club request “sought the release of communications between staff and outside groups it had consulted, in the belief that the Energy Department had mostly relied on fossil fuel backers” in preparing the report, Reuters writes. “We want to make sure that when this study is finally released, the public and policy-makers fully understand how [DoE] went about doing it, who they were influenced by, and whose views they did not take into consideration,” said lawyer Casey Roberts.
Last Friday, Bloomberg reports, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra asked a federal court in Washington, D.C. to compel the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) “to say what steps were taken to ensure its rulemaking and procedures remain impartial, even as it’s led by a man who opposed the EPA in at least a half-dozen lawsuits while serving as Oklahoma’s attorney general.”
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has been one of team Trump’s most vocal critics of the science of global warming. He has been caught making up statistics to justify the United States’ announced intention to abandon its Paris climate commitments, and was thwarted by Congress in an effort to rip up rules inherited from the Obama administration to limit the release of methane from oil and gas operations.
“Upon his swearing in at EPA,” Becerra said in documents filed with the court, “Administrator Pruitt became the head of the agency responsible for implementing the very same rules that he had been working to overturn just moments earlier.”
The California Attorney General’s brief asks the court to order the EPA to provide “records showing what steps [it] took to ensure Pruitt’s compliance with federal ethics rules, and who can assume Pruitt’s powers in the event he’s disqualified from participating in a matter or recuses himself.”