The new political environment in the United States poses a serious threat to climate scientists and is an opportunity to call your attention to climate contrarians in the federal government, and its main departments and agencies.
Today we introduce Senator James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) — and his protégés.
On March 16, Senator Inhofe accused the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of creating “propaganda” and “brainwashing our kids” to show his support for Trump’s proposal to cut the EPA budget by 31 percent. If approved, this will end EPA programs dealing with the causes and effects of climate change.
This is not Senator Inhofe’s first outlandish statement on climate and the environment. In a 2003 Senate speech, he famously called global warming “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.” Senator Inhofe, former Chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), has also taken numerous legal actions against climate science, including joining the Competitive Enterprise Institute in a lawsuit to block distribution of the National Climate Assessment Report, publicly calling for criminal charges against climate scientists, and using his EPW perch to lead investigations against climate scientists.
Senator Inhofe’s views and actions are disturbing. So is the fact that he’s helped at least six of his former staffers secure positions in the Trump Administration — people who are helping shape policy related to climate, energy, and the environment. They include:
- Ryan Jackson, Chief of Staff to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. Jackson spent more than a decade on the EPW while Inhofe was chair, from 2003 until now, in range of roles from legislative director to chief of staff.
- Byron Brown, Deputy Chief of Staff to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. Brown was the oversight counsel for EPW from 2015 until this appointment.
- Mike Catanzaro, Special Assistant to the President for Energy and Environmental Policy at the White House National Economic Council. Catanzaro was Senator Inhofe’s deputy staff director on EPW from 2009 until 2011.
- George David Banks, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for International Energy and Environment. Banks was Senator Inhofe’s staff director from 2011 to 2012.
- Andrew Wheeler is considered likely to be chosen as Deputy Administrator of the EPA; he was Senator Inhofe’s Chief of Staff from 2003 to 2009.
A record number of Americans say they are concerned about climate change, but Senator Inhofe and his associates are poised to continue their assault on climate science.
We firmly believe that those who dispute the scientific consensus on climate change, and those who have a history of harassing individual scientists, should not hold positions in federal agencies employing climate researchers. We’ll continue to call out climate foes and protect the scientific endeavor by helping climate scientists defend against legal harassment; here’s how you can join us.