"Landing Team" for Trump's EPA: Climate Science Deniers and a Lawyer Known For Harassing Climate Scientists

David Schnare

President-elect Donald Trump’s future Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is really taking shape with his newly announced EPA chief (and friend of the fossil fuel industry), Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, and the addition of lawyer David W. Schnare to the so-called EPA “landing team.”

Schnare is a lawyer known for filing several onerous legal requests to see the email inboxes of climate scientists and EPA administrators. He is now one of seven people chosen to coordinate information gathering for Trump's future administration with current staff at the EPA.

This group of seven picked by Trump’s transition team constitutes individuals almost universally dismissive of climate science, and many have strongly attacked the EPA’s climate plans. 

Most individuals on this EPA landing team are drawn from conservative think tanks already working to underplay the risks of human-caused climate change while attacking the Obama administration’s EPA rulings on clean energy and climate change.

Trying to Schnare Climate Scientists

Schnare, like several others named on the EPA landing team, has also worked to downplay or challenge the legitimacy of the well-established science linking dangerous climate change to fossil fuel burning.

In a climate change debate last year, Schnare continually focused on what he claimed were uncertainties in climate science. 

Previously logging 30 years as an EPA lawyer, Schnare today is general counsel and director at the Energy and Environment Legal Institute (E&E Legal), which used to be called the American Tradition Institute, but tax records show he draws no salary from that group.  

However, he is also director and chairman of FME Law, also known as the George Mason Environmental Law Clinic, where he does draw a salary.

Both E&E Legal and FME Law are known for launching multiple actions targeting the emails of climate scientists and government administrators working at the EPA.

In one case, E&E Legal has tried to force the University of Arizona to give up 13 years' worth of email records from two climate scientists.

Many have described Schnare’s activities as harassment. During his time at the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy, Schnare sought to uncover evidence of scientific malpractice by pursuing the emails of climate scientist Michael Mann, who at the time was a professor at the University of Virginia. Schnare ultimately lost the case.

Recent bankruptcy filings have revealed financial ties between FME Law and E&E Legal and the coal industry.

The Wall Street Journal reported that in 2014, Arch Coal donated $10,000 to E&E Legal.

Schnare’s associate at E&E Legal, lawyer and climate science denier Christopher Horner, has also been paid by coal firm Alpha Natural Resources.

The Rest of the Team: Deniers and EPA Critics

The Trump transition team has so far announced seven appointees to the so-called “landing teams” that are tasked with visiting EPA offices to prepare the ground for the new administration.

Alongside Schnare on the EPA landing team is Myron Ebell, of the Competitive Enterprise Institute

Since the late 1990s, Ebell has worked to deny the science linking fossil fuel emissions to dangerous climate change, while attacking renewable energy solutions and the EPA.

Amy Oliver Cooke, of the Colorado-based think tank the Independence Institute, is also named on the “landing team.” Cooke is another critic of the EPA, who has sharp words for renewable energy policy while promoting hydraulic fracturing.

Also joining the “landing team” is David Kreutzer of the Heritage Foundation. He has also claimed that there is nothing unusual about recent record breaking hot years.

Austin Lipari, of the The Federalist Society, is another addition to the lineup. The Federalist Society is heavily funded by rich conservatives through two linked funds: Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund. 

Those two funds have also been key sources of funding for climate science denial groups, including the CEI.

The National Rifle Association also gave $225,000 to the Federalist Society in 2014.

Another member of the EPA “landing team” is David Stevenson, of the Delaware-based libertarian think tank the Caeser Rodney Institute. 

In late 2015, Stevenson claimed that “the facts” showed “no upward trend in global average temperatures for the last eighteen years” and claimed there would only be “modest impacts” on the environment from global warming.

Rounding things out, the Trump transition team named former George W. Bush era–EPA staffer George Sugiyama. Sugiyama also served as legal adviser to the Republican minority, led by Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe, on the Senate environment committee. 

Inhofe is arguably the best-known climate science denier in Congress and famously declared climate change to be a hoax.

In a statement, Schnare said his appointment would “upset some of you and will please others.”

He said the landing team’s job would be to “seek the information the transition team needs to create its action plans,” but he would “not be airing my own opinions until our job is done.”

Main image: David Schnare speaking at a Heartland Institute conference for climate science deniers in June 2011.