Pruitt, who formerly filed numerous lawsuits against federal regulations during his time as Oklahoma attorney general, has made no secret
of his desire to give more weight to regulated industries.
"What the American people deserve, I think, is a true, legitimate, peer-reviewed, objective, transparent discussion about CO2," Pruitt told the Washington Post
"The citizens just don't trust that EPA is honest with these numbers," Pruitt told The Wall Street Journal
in February. "Let's get real, objective data, not just do modeling. Let's vigorously publish and peer-review science. Let's do honest cost-benefit work. We need to restore the trust."
Part of expanding that trust is bringing the voices of the fossil fuel industries into the mix.
"We believe in dialogue with, and being responsive to, all our stakeholders," said EPA spokesperson Liz Bowman. "The difference between us and the previous administration is that we feel that the regulated community is an important stakeholder. Input from the technical and scientific experts on the ground is valuable to the regulatory process."
Regarding the "red team, blue team" concept, Bowman said, "Climate science, like other fields of science, is constantly changing. A new, fresh, and transparent evaluation is something everyone should support doing."
Pruitt has also dismissed
half of the scientists serving on a scientific review board that provides guidance to the EPA.
At the Energy Department, a not-yet-released report on whether the US electric grid is ready for renewable energy is being led by a man who formerly worked for a think tank funded by the fossil-fuel industry.
In addition, an op-ed tweeted
by the Energy Department last week argued that major scientific institutions have become biased and politicized on the climate issue. The piece was written by a scholar at conservative think tank the Cato Institute and specifically focused on ccriticizing the American Meteorological Society, a non-profit professional organization for scientists and researchers.
The administration's handling of agency science advisory boards is also changing. In May, Interior froze
the work of more than 200 advisory boards, committees and subcommittees -- about a third of those advisory boards are science-based.
Critics warn that the administration's moves impose a clear conflict of interest.
"It's bastardizing the definition of scientific integrity," said Terry Yosie, former director of the EPA science advisory board under President Ronald Reagan. "The peoples whose interest are affected already have a place in this process. There's a public comment period. The scientific advisory process is meant to judge the weight of the scientific evidence, not how other places like specific coal plants will be affected."
How science is used; rolling back regulations
Environmentalists point to the administration's move to delay or roll back federal regulations.
The Trump administration throughout multiple agencies has attempted to delay a number of regulations slated to take effect this year -- 47 total according to a list of Federal Register filings compiled
by a professor and law student at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law. EPA leads the group, delaying and or reviewing at least 14 rules.
However, guiding rules within the EPA mandate that a regulation cannot simply be overturned, it has to be replaced by another rule and the rule itself has to be based in science.
This is especially true when looking at the Clean Air Act. In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled in Massachusetts v. EPA that greenhouse gases are air pollutants that would be covered by the act and so EPA must protect the public from pollution. Following that decision, the EPA, as required by the court, released endangerment findings that found greenhouse gas emissions endanger public health. This document is the basis for a lot of the regulations finalized under the Obama administration.
Environmentalists believe that the EPA under Pruitt looks like it wants to reverse this endangerment finding and say that greenhouse gases don't contribute to climate change -- basically reversing the science -- by using the red team blue team effort, according to a source at the Union of Concerned Scientists who asked to remain anonymous because he was not authorized to speak.
Administration members are soliciting less feedback from scientists who work within the government agencies, critics say.
"It's kind of like the movie 'The Breakfast Club,'" said Burke. "The kids, the little brat pack, they are fessing their situations in life. ... Molly Ringwald's character says of her parents, 'They ignore me.' That's what's happening to the career staff. They are being ignored."
Clement likens the scene within the Interior Department to a chilling effect.
"There's no question there's a chill on the science enterprise within the federal government," he said. "I think there's a sense of neglect. If there's something that needs to be attended to in advance, that has not happened. And there have been many cases where the science has actually been suppressed. So at this point, the question becomes not, Are they trying to have an impact on science?' but, 'Are they doing anything illegal or inappropriate to stifle that science?'"