New Emails Show Scott Pruitt Personally Directed the EPA’s Website Purge

More than 1,900 climate-related web pages and files were removed or modified.

iStock/Getty Images Plus

During his first few months as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt was personally involved in removing information about climate change from the agency’s website, according to EPA emails obtained by the advocacy group the Environmental Defense Fund. 

The EDF acquired the emails through a Freedom of Information Act request “for documents about changes to the EPA’s website pertaining to climate and air quality.” The files center on a website purge that took place at the agency in April 2017, according to a news release from the group. 

In August, the EDF also received records of “more than 1,900 climate-related web pages and files that had been removed from or modified on the EPA’s website.” The changes included removing the EPA’s webpage about the Clean Power Plan, an Obama-era policy aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, as well as pages about climate change and climate science. Archived versions of these pages are still accessible.

ThinkProgress, a project of the progressive public policy organization the Center for American Progress Action Fund, reports:

Among the documents released by EDF on Monday is an email which shows J.P. Freire, then serving as Pruitt’s associate administrator for public affairs, writing to colleagues on April 28, 2017: “We would like the content at the links below removed and archived as soon as possible.” The webpage titles included “Climate Change, “Climate Change Science,” “Climate Change Impacts,” and “Student’s Guide to Global Climate Change.” Each of these webpages still directs the user to a page that states “this page is being updated.”

In reviewing the cache of emails, the EDF also discovered that EPA’s public affairs office had been asked by Pruitt’s advisers to figure out “how quickly they could launch a website on Trump’s energy independence executive order,” according to Think Progress. The reason? Pruitt wanted the EPA’s Clean Power Plan website redirected “to the energy independence website.”

Think Progress reports that a senior adviser to Pruitt, Lincoln Ferguson, pressured the staff, asking in an email, “How close are we to launching this on the website? The Administrator would like it to go up ASAP. He also has several other changes that need to take place.” When told that they were close to completion, Ferguson responded: “Can it happen today?” He added in a subsequent email, “Just asking because he is asking.”

In a statement emailed to ThinkProgress on Monday, EPA spokesperson Jahan Wilcox wrote, “Of course the site will be reflective of the current administration’s priorities. With that said, all the content from the previous administration is still easily accessible and publicly available through the banner across the top of our website.”

More Mother Jones reporting on Climate Desk

REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

payment methods

REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate