Emails Reveal Cooperation Between the EPA, Climate Change Deniers
Climate change deniers get the lions' share of attention at the EPA
Emails released in late May 2018 reveal that senior U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials are collaborating with a group of Conservative climate change deniers that attempt to rally like-minded people for public hearings on science and global warming. The anti-science group, the Heartland Institute, also works to counter negative news coverage of the EPA and laud Administer Scott Pruitt, the communications show. 
The emails show EPA Deputy Associate Administrator for Public Affairs John Konkus repeatedly contacted senior staffers at the Heartland Institute.
In a May, 2017, an email was sent seeking input on scientists and economists that the EPA could invite for an annual public hearing on science standards. Konkus wrote to then-Heartland president John Bast:
“If you sent a list, we will make sure an invitation is sent.”
Subsequent emails show Konkus and Heartland working to come up with a lengthy list of potential invitees known for rejecting the science of man-made climate change, including groups like Plants Need CO2, Right Climate Stuff, and the aptly-named Junk Science.
The correspondence paints a picture of an EPA bent on rolling back environmental regulation and enforcement, and rallying other climate change deniers around the cause, drawing complaints from environmentalists that Pruitt is ignoring the overwhelming scientific consensus both in and outside of the EPA that carbon emissions fuel climate change.
The emails were obtained through by the Environmental Defense Fund and the Southern Environmental Law Center, which sued to enforce a Freedom of Information (FOIA) request and provided them to The Associated Press (AP).
The EPA works closely with multiple public and private groups for the purpose of ensuring the public is informed, says EPA spokesman Lincoln Ferguson.
“It demonstrates the agency’s dedication to advancing President Trump’s agenda of environmental stewardship and regulatory certainty.”
The EPA maintains that the public hearing referred to in the May 2017 email was canceled because the EPA official who runs it got sick. However, according to an email sent by Bast to EPA officials and others, the hearing was canceled after learning that “climate-change skeptics planned to attend.”
The Heartland Institute, which calls itself a leading free-market think-tank, rejects the conclusion that fossil-fuel emissions are behind climate change, saying on its website that reducing the use of petroleum and coal to fight climate change would “squander one of America’s greatest comparative advantages among the world’s nations.”
Tim Huelskamp, a former Kansas Republican congressman who now leads the Heartland Institute, said in a statement:
“Of course The Heartland Institute has been working with EPA on policy and personnel decisions. They recognized us as the pre-eminent organization opposing the radical climate alarmism agenda and instead promoting sound science and policy.”
Both Ferguson and Pruitt defend the communications by pointing out that they’ve also met with mainstream groups dedicated to fixing climate change, including Moms Clean Air Force, and the American Lung Association.
But Ben Levitan of the Environmental Defense Fund says these groups and others like them haven’t received nearly the amount of attention or invitations as Heartland and similar right-wing groups.
Technically speaking, Heartland is not a lobbying group, according to Spokesman Jim Lakely. He said the group has logged its contacts with the EPA and that Heartland falls below the level required for disclosing as lobbying.
The emails appear to show an EPA determined to distance itself as far as possible from environmental advocacy groups and climate change believers, and an unwillingness to fund research that might reinforce findings that climate change is man-made.
Part of Kronkus’ job is to review awards of hundreds of millions of dollars in federal grants. In September 2017, The Washington Post reported that Kronkus had been scrutinizing grant applicants for mentions of climate change, which Kronkus reportedly calls “the double-c word.”
The correspondence also shows that Kronkus rejoiced when certain liberal-leaning news reporters left their jobs, and openly expressed a desire to see other journalists contrary to Heartland’s work “flame out.”
Julie Fidler is a freelance writer, legal blogger, and the author of Adventures in Holy Matrimony: For Better or the Absolute Worst. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two ridiculously spoiled cats. She occasionally pontificates on her blog.