Emails show cooperation among EPA, climate-change deniers - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Emails show cooperation among EPA, climate-change deniers

Posted: Updated:
WASHINGTON -

Newly released emails show senior Environmental Protection Agency officials working closely with a conservative group that dismisses climate change to rally like-minded people for public hearings on science and global warming, counter negative news coverage and promote Administrator Scott Pruitt’s stewardship of the agency.

John Konkus, EPA’s deputy associate administrator for public affairs, repeatedly reached out to senior staffers at the Heartland Institute, according to the emails.

“If you send a list, we will make sure an invitation is sent,” Konkus wrote to then-Heartland president Joseph Bast in May 2017, seeking suggestions on scientists and economists the EPA could invite to an annual EPA public hearing on the agency’s science standards.

Follow-up emails show Konkus and the Heartland Institute mustering scores of potential invitees known for rejecting scientific warnings of man-made climate-change, including from groups like Plants Need CO2, The Right Climate Stuff, and Junk Science.

The emails underscore how Pruitt and senior agency officials have sought to surround themselves with people who share their vision of curbing environmental regulation and enforcement, leading to complaints from environmentalists that he is ignoring the conclusions of the majority of scientists in and out of his agency especially when it comes to climate-changing carbon emissions.

They were obtained by the Environmental Defense Fund and the Southern Environmental Law Center, which sued to enforce a Freedom of Information request and provided them to The Associated Press.

The EPA maintains close working relationships with a broad range of public and private groups, and Heartland is just one of many the agency engages with “to ensure the public is informed,” said EPA spokesman Lincoln Ferguson.

“It demonstrates the agency’s dedication to advancing President Trump’s agenda of environmental stewardship and regulatory certainty,” he said.

The public hearing referred to in the May 2017 email ultimately was canceled when the EPA official who runs it fell ill, the EPA said.

But Bast contended in an email sent to EPA staffers and others that the official called off the hearing after learning that climate-change “skeptics planned to attend.”

The Heartland Institute calls itself a leading free-market think-tank. It rejects decades of science saying fossil-fuel emissions are altering the climate and says on its website that curbing use of petroleum and coal to fight climate change would “squander one of America’s greatest comparative advantages among the world’s nations.”

“Of course The Heartland Institute has been working with EPA on policy and personnel decisions,” Tim Huelskamp, a former Republican congressman from Kansas who now leads the group, said in a statement to the AP.

“They recognized us as the pre-eminent organization opposing the radical climate alarmism agenda and instead promoting sound science and policy,” Huelskamp wrote.

He said Heartland would continue to help Pruitt and his staff.

Ferguson said Pruitt and his top officials have also met with groups known for their campaigns against climate-changing emissions and pollutants from fossil fuels, including the Moms Clean Air Force, the American Lung Association, and others.

But Ben Levitan of the Environmental Defense Fund said mainstream climate-change groups have received nothing like the outreach and invitations that Heartland and other hard-right groups have been getting.

Certainly, “in some ways this is normal and in the course of business that ebbs and flows with the ideology of the administration in power,” said Meredith McGehee, executive director of Issue One, a non-profit promoting ethical government and bipartisan political reform.

Heartland is not registered as a lobbying group. Spokesman Jim Lakely said the group has logged its contacts with EPA and that they fall below the level required for disclosing as lobbying.

An email last February shows Bast forwarded to followers an email with the line “From the White House,” rallying activists to public hearings the EPA was then holding around the country on repealing an Obama-era power plan meant to curb fossil-fuel emissions.

The email is signed by a Pruitt political appointee and gives the name of another EPA official for activists to call. It’s not clear from the email, however, who initiated the attempt to rally conservatives for the public hearing.

Konkus was a Republican political consultant when Pruitt named him to the agency. His duties include reviewing awards of hundreds of millions of dollars in federal grants. The Washington Post reported in September that Konkus had been scrutinizing grant applications for mentions of climate change, which he reportedly calls “the double C-word.”

Emails show he and former EPA spokeswoman, Liz Bowman, repeatedly reached out to Heartland to talk over critical coverage by the Post.

Lakely, the Heartland spokesman, responds he’s shared the article with colleagues, “asking them to jump to your aide (sic) and defend this position.”

Konkus also contacted Heartland and other conservative groups asking for what he calls “echo” amplifying word of Pruitt’s regulation-cutting efforts, according to the emails.

And an email from Bast, shared with EPA staffers and others, shows the then-Heartland president celebrating news that a reporter, Justin Gillis, was leaving The New York Times.

“Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead. Still waiting for Chris Mooney and Juliet Eilperin at the WaPo and Seth Borenstein at AP to flame out,” Bast writes.

Spokespeople for the AP, The Washington Post and The New York Times declined comment.

(Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • Court documents offer disturbing details in Spokane infant's death

    Court documents offer disturbing details in Spokane infant's death

    Saturday, August 18 2018 2:34 AM EDT2018-08-18 06:34:50 GMT

    SPOKANE, Wash. - Court documents are offering more details about a disturbing case of child abuse in Spokane. Investigators arrested 33-year-old Erik Sherman in the death of his baby Thursday. One doctor who witnessed the abuse told investigators in court documents it was "one of the worst cases of child abuse he had seen in 23 years of practice."

    >>

    SPOKANE, Wash. - Court documents are offering more details about a disturbing case of child abuse in Spokane. Investigators arrested 33-year-old Erik Sherman in the death of his baby Thursday. One doctor who witnessed the abuse told investigators in court documents it was "one of the worst cases of child abuse he had seen in 23 years of practice."

    >>
  • Legal battle raging over home owned by Shasta Groene but used by her dad

    Legal battle raging over home owned by Shasta Groene but used by her dad

    Saturday, August 18 2018 2:37 AM EDT2018-08-18 06:37:31 GMT

    COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho - 13 years ago Shasta Groene lived through unimaginable horror. In mid-May, 2005, her mother, her mother's boyfriend, and her oldest brother were murdered in front of her. 8-year-old Shasta was kidnapped and, along with her 9-year-old brother Dylan, tortured and sexually abused for weeks. 

    >>

    COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho - 13 years ago Shasta Groene lived through unimaginable horror. In mid-May, 2005, her mother, her mother's boyfriend, and her oldest brother were murdered in front of her. 8-year-old Shasta was kidnapped and, along with her 9-year-old brother Dylan, tortured and sexually abused for weeks. 

    >>
  • Lawyer says girls' bodies were submerged in oil

    Lawyer says girls' bodies were submerged in oil

    Friday, August 17 2018 9:16 PM EDT2018-08-18 01:16:06 GMT

    FREDERICK, Colo. (AP) - A lawyer for a Colorado man suspected in the deaths of his pregnant wife and two young daughters says the daughters' bodies were submerged in crude oil for four days before they were found.  Defense attorney James Merson made the statement in a court motion Friday. The motion asks a judge to order that DNA samples be taken from the children's throats.

    >>

    FREDERICK, Colo. (AP) - A lawyer for a Colorado man suspected in the deaths of his pregnant wife and two young daughters says the daughters' bodies were submerged in crude oil for four days before they were found.  Defense attorney James Merson made the statement in a court motion Friday. The motion asks a judge to order that DNA samples be taken from the children's throats.

    >>
HD DOPPLER 6i
/
  • Top Stories from KHQHomeMore>>

  • Defense DNA request denied in deaths of Colorado mom, kids

    Defense DNA request denied in deaths of Colorado mom, kids

    Saturday, August 18 2018 8:33 PM EDT2018-08-19 00:33:15 GMT

    FREDERICK, Colo. (AP) - A Colorado judge has denied a request by a defense attorney for a man accused of killing his wife and two daughters to require a coroner to collect DNA from the necks of the young girls. KMGH-TV and the Daily Camera newspaper in Boulder reported the judge said in an order he would not tell the medical examiner's office involved in the case how to do its job. 

    >>

    FREDERICK, Colo. (AP) - A Colorado judge has denied a request by a defense attorney for a man accused of killing his wife and two daughters to require a coroner to collect DNA from the necks of the young girls. KMGH-TV and the Daily Camera newspaper in Boulder reported the judge said in an order he would not tell the medical examiner's office involved in the case how to do its job. 

    >>
  • Police: Florida man, 88, burns raccoon over eating mangoes

    Police: Florida man, 88, burns raccoon over eating mangoes

    Saturday, August 18 2018 8:23 PM EDT2018-08-19 00:23:26 GMT

    PALM BAY, Fla. (AP) - An 88-year-old Florida man was arrested after police said he burned a trapped raccoon alive because the animal had eaten his mangoes. Ezra James told WKMG-TV in a story Saturday that he threw gasoline on the raccoon and lit a match. In addition to the mangoes, James says he was afraid the raccoon might give him rabies. James lives in the coastal town of Palm Bay, located about 75 miles (120 kilometers) southeast of Orlando.   

    >>

    PALM BAY, Fla. (AP) - An 88-year-old Florida man was arrested after police said he burned a trapped raccoon alive because the animal had eaten his mangoes. Ezra James told WKMG-TV in a story Saturday that he threw gasoline on the raccoon and lit a match. In addition to the mangoes, James says he was afraid the raccoon might give him rabies. James lives in the coastal town of Palm Bay, located about 75 miles (120 kilometers) southeast of Orlando.   

    >>
  • Migrant spouse of pregnant woman detained on way to hospital

    Migrant spouse of pregnant woman detained on way to hospital

    Saturday, August 18 2018 8:12 PM EDT2018-08-19 00:12:02 GMT

    LOS ANGELES (AP) - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement says that the California man who was arrested by its agents as he drove his wife to the hospital so she could give birth had a warrant for his arrest in Mexico. In a statement, spokeswoman Lori Haley says Joel Arrona Lara "was brought to ICE's attention due to an outstanding warrant issued for his arrest in Mexico on homicide charges." Arrona remains in custody pending removal proceedings.

    >>

    LOS ANGELES (AP) - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement says that the California man who was arrested by its agents as he drove his wife to the hospital so she could give birth had a warrant for his arrest in Mexico. In a statement, spokeswoman Lori Haley says Joel Arrona Lara "was brought to ICE's attention due to an outstanding warrant issued for his arrest in Mexico on homicide charges." Arrona remains in custody pending removal proceedings.

    >>