Air pollution: black, Hispanic and poor students most at risk from toxins study

Children are facing risks that will affect their ability to learn, says expert following study covering 90,000 schools across the US

Air pollution: black, Hispanic and poor students most at risk from toxins study

  • Children are facing risks that will affect their ability to learn
  • Study covered 90,000 schools across the US

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The ‘imminent mini ice age’ myth is back, and it’s still wrong | Dana Nuccitelli

Dana Nuccitellil: We cant accurately predict solar activity, and a quiet solar cycle would have a small impact on Earths climate anyway

Roughly every two years were treated to headlines repeating the myth that Earth is headed for an imminent mini ice age. It happened in 2013, 2015, and again just recently at the tail end of 2017.

This time around, the myth appears to have been sparked by a Sky News interview with Northumbria University mathematics professor Valentina Zharkova. The story was quickly echoed by the Daily Mail, International Business Times, Sputnik News, Metro, Tru News, and others. Zharkova was also behind the mini ice age stories in 2015, based on her research predicting that the sun will soon enter a quiet phase.

The most important takeaway point is that the scientific research is clear were one to occur, a grand solar minimum would temporarily reduce global temperatures by less than 0.3C, while humans are already causing 0.2C warming per decade.

The global mean temperature difference is shown for the time period 1900 to 2100 for the IPCC A2 emissions scenario. The red line shows predicted temperature change for the current level of solar activity, the blue line shows predicted temperature change for solar activity at the much lower level of the Maunder Minimum, and the black line shows observed temperatures through 2010. Illustration: Adapted from Feulner & Rahmstorf (2010) in Geophysical Research Letters by

So the sun could only offset at most 15 years worth of human-caused global warming, and once its quiet phase ended, the sun would then help accelerate global warming once again.

The mini ice age misnomer

The myth ultimately stems from a period climate scientists have coined The Little Ice Age (LIA). This was a modestly cool period running from about the year 1300 to 1850. It was particularly cold in the UK, where the River Thames sometimes froze over, and frost fairs were held.

A team led by University of Reading physicist and solar expert Mike Lockwood wrote a paper reviewing the science behind frost fairs, sunspots, and the LIA. It included the figure below showing northern hemisphere temperatures along with sunspot number and the level of volcanic particles in the atmosphere over the past millennium:

Sunspot number, northern hemisphere temperatures, and volcanic aerosol optical depth (AOD) around the time of the Little Ice Age. Illustration: Lockwood et al. (2017), News & Reviews in Astronomy & Geophysics

During full blown ice ages, temperatures have generally been 48C colder than in modern times. As this figure shows, during the LIA, temperatures were at most only about 0.5C cooler than the early 20th century. Thus, Lockwood calls the Little Ice Age a total misnomer. As the authors put it:

Compared to the changes in the proper ice ages, the so-called Little Ice Age (LIA) is a very short-lived and puny climate and social perturbation.

For comparison, temperatures have risen by a full 1C over the past 120 years, and 0.7C over just the past 40 years.

The minimal solar minima influence on the climate

The Maunder Minimum was a period of quiet solar activity between about 1645 and 1715. Its often referred to interchangeably with Little Ice Age, but the latter lasted centuries longer. In fact, three separate solar minima occurred during the LIA, which also included periods of relatively higher solar activity. Other factors like volcanic eruptions and human activities also contributed to the cool temperatures. In fact, a 2017 paper led by the University of Readings Mathew Owens concluded:

Climate model simulations suggest multiple factors, particularly volcanic activity, were crucial for causing the cooler temperatures in the northern hemisphere during the LIA. A reduction in total solar irradiance likely contributed to the LIA at a level comparable to changing land use [by humans].

Simulated northern hemisphere temperature changes resulting from individual climate factors, as compared to the observed changes in the top panel. The bottom panel shows a simulation with no changes to climatological factors, to illustrate the level of natural variability in the climate. Illustration: Owens et al. (2017), Journal of Space Weather and Space Climate

Several studies have investigated the potential climate impact of a future grand solar minimum. In every case, they have concluded that such a quiet solar period would cause less than 0.3C cooling, which as previously noted, would temporarily offset no more than a decade and a halfs worth of human-caused global warming. These model-based estimates are consistent with the amount of cooling that occurred during the solar minima in the LIA.

Is another grand solar minimum imminent?

Although it would have a relatively small impact on the climate, its still an interesting question to ask whether were headed for another quiet solar period. Zharkova thinks so. Her team created a model that tries to predict solar activity, and suggests another solar minimum will occur from 2020 to 2055. However, other solar scientists have criticized the model as being too simple, created based on just 35 years of data, and failing to accurately reproduce past solar activity.

Ilya Usoskin, head of the Oulu Cosmic Ray Station and Vice-Director of the ReSoLVE Center of Excellence in Research, published a critique of Zharkovas solar model making those points. Most importantly, the model fails in reproducing past known solar activity because Zharkovas team treats the sun as a simple, predictable system like a pendulum. In reality, the sun has more random and unpredictable (in scientific terms, stochastic) behavior:

For example, a perfect pendulum if you saw a few cycles of the pendulum, you can predict its behavior. However, solar activity is known to be non-stationary process, which principally cannot be predicted (the prediction horizon for solar activity is known to be 10-15 years). Deterministic prediction cannot be made because of the essential stochastic component.

Just imagine a very turbulent flow of water in a river rapid, and you throw a small wooden stick into water and trace it. Then you do it second time and third time … each time the stick will end up in very different positions after the same time period. Its movement is unpredictable because of the turbulent stochastic component. This is exactly the situation with solar activity.

Lockwood agrees that we dont yet have a proven predictive theory of solar behavior. He has published research examining the range of possible solar evolutions based on past periods when the Sun was in a similar state to today, but as he puts it, that is the best that I think we can do at the present time!

Solar physicist Paul Charbonneau at the University of Montreal also concurred with Usoskin. He told me that while scientists are working to simulate solar activity, including using simplified models like Zharkovas,

on the standards of contemporary dynamo models theirs is extremely simple in fact borderlining simplistic … To extrapolate such a model outside its calibration window, you need an extra, very strong hypothesis: that the physical systems underlying the magnetic field generation retain their coherence (Phase, amplitude, etc.). As my colleague Ilya Usoskin has already explained, this is very unlikely to be the case in the case of the solar activity cycle.

Why wont this myth die?

Zharkova believes her solar model is correct, but at best it can only try to predict when the next quiet solar period will occur. Its influence on Earths climate is outside her expertise, and the peer-reviewed research is clear that it would be a minimal impact.

Zharkova disagrees I contacted her, and she told me that she believes a grand solar minimum would have a much bigger cooling effect. However, she also referenced long-debunked myths about global warming on Mars and Jupiter, and made a comment about the preachers of global warming. Shes clearly passionate about her research, and has the credibility that comes with publishing peer-reviewed studies on solar activity. Perhaps these factors motivate journalists to write these frequent mini ice age stories.

But Zharkovas climate science beliefs are irrelevant. While she has created a model predicting an imminent period of quiet solar activity, other scientists have identified serious flaws in the model, and in any case, research has shown that another solar minimum would only have a small and temporary impact on Earths climate.

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What does a sexist google engineer teach us about women in science? | John Abraham

John Abraham: The Google engineers infamous sexist manifesto is contradicted by the brilliance of women in science.

What does a sexist Google engineer teach us about women in science?


Thats the short answer, but it deserves some commentary. In early August, a young Google computer engineer made lots of news in the US when he penned a manifesto that many described as sexist and which led to his firing. The memo was written as a backlash against efforts to improve diversity in the workplace. However, the arguments articulated by the manifesto were rightly described as offensive by Google executives.

The explosive part in the memo involved comments about how biological differences explain the paucity of women in technology and leadership fields. While there are certainly both physical and mental differences between men and women, the comments about both genders are, in my opinion, misguided and offensive.

This article is not going to focus much on the content of this so-called manifesto. It also wont focus on the author of this document, except to question the basis for how a very young engineer has the experience, training, or education to make such broad-brush generalizations. I mean, has he for instance managed scores of male and female engineers and been able to assess their quality of work and intellectual capacity? I doubt it. Has he studied this in any detail or published on the topic? I doubt it.

I found this manifesto so ironic because I give a lot of thought to differences between male and female scientists. I am not an expert in the area, certainly not in evolutionary biology. But I am a Full Professor with many years of instructing both undergraduate and graduate students in engineering. I am often struck by how small the female population is in my discipline (perhaps 20%), yet it is higher in other technical fields (biology, mathematics, chemistry, etc.). I am also impressed by how well female students do in technical courses and degree programs. I note a statistically significant performance gap between male and female students in courses; females consistently outperform their male peers.

I also have had the fortune to be a consultant for many different engineering companies from industries such as biomedical, aerospace, manufacturing, clean energy and other fields. In my work, I notice that women team members easily hold their own with male co-workers. I also believe (but I have no evidence) that women think differently than men.

In my anecdotal experience, women are able to consider problems from a wider range of perspectives. This perspective has real value to design teams, it encourages companies to pay more for female employees (yes, our female engineering graduates tend to make more than their male counterparts). Diverse teams make effective teams. That includes gender diversity. So, in my 15 or so years as a professor, and in my perhaps 50 consulting positions, I have lived an experience very different from the one this young Google engineer articulated.

With all that said, I thought this event provided an excellent opportunity to showcase some female scientists who are either world-known or becoming world-known in the field of climate science. So, here are some short bios of brilliant women climate scientists.

Dr. Magdalena Balmaseda

Magdalena A. Balmaseda has been working at ECMWF since 1995. She currently leads the Earth System Predictability Section in the Research Department.

Dr. Magdalena Balmaseda. Photograph: ECMWF

Dr. Balmaseda has developed her career by helping us understand weather and climate. She has contributed to building bridges between the climate and weather sciences. Her expertise in ocean modelling in general, and in El Nio in particular, greatly contributed to ECMWFs first steps in seasonal forecasting back in 1995. Now seasonal forecasts are one of the pillars of the EU Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S), and the ocean is included in all ECMWF probabilistic forecasting systems, contributing the provision of forecasts of atmospheric conditions from days to months and seasons ahead.

Equally important have been her contributions to the role of the ocean in a warming climate. The apparent slowing of the global rise in surface temperature in the first decade of the 21st century the so-called hiatus had puzzled the scientific community. In 2013 Dr. Balmaseda together with other colleagues demonstrated that a fair amount of energy trapped in the Earth system had actually been absorbed by deep ocean waters. This outcome was only possible thanks to a combination of information from ocean models, atmospheric winds, and ocean observations, using similar combination techniques as those employed for weather forecasting.

Dr. Karina von Schuckmann

Karina von Schuckmann is an oceanographer working in France at Mercator Ocean. She leads the ocean climate monitoring activities of the Copernicus Marine Environment Monitoring Service, which includes the development of a regular Ocean State Report with more than 100 authors. She is also a lead author of the upcoming Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Special report on ocean and cryosphere.

Dr. Karina von Schuckmann.

Her research is focused on the oceans role in the Earth energy budget. This means she studies how much heat is stored in and how it flows throughout the ocean waters. Her studies particularly highlight the unique importance of measuring the global ocean as its global heat storage is the most fundamental metric defining the status of global climate change and expectations for continued global warming. With this topic she is also playing a leading role on international scientific collaborations under the framework of the World Climate Research Program.

Dr. von Schuckmanns rsum reads like a seasoned superstars; she has worked at some of the best research labs in France, the USA, Germany. I was so surprised to find she only recently received her PhD (in 2006). I want to know how she has become a leader in the field so quickly. I guess talent will do that. Her dissertation topic was on ocean climate variability in the tropical Atlantic Ocean.

Dr. Jessica Conroy

Dr Jessica Conroy is a faculty member at the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign. She holds a dual appointment in the departments of Geology and Plant Biology. Another young and upcoming research scientist, she has been at the forefront of connecting modern climate observations and climate model outputs with long-past climate measurements (paleoclimate data). Her work has helped improve our understanding of past Earth climate.

Dr. Jessica Conroy. Photograph: Jessica Moerman

In addition, she has developed long paleoclimate records from regions that are very sensitive to climate change. For instance, remote islands across the tropical Pacific and the Tibetan Plateau. She goes where few scientists have gone to make measurements that even fewer can.

Part of her work relies upon lake sediment samples and on the use of stable isotopes (oxygen and hydrogen) to give clues about what past climate was like. Not only does this give information about past temperatures but these data also, perhaps more importantly, tell us what the water cycle was like in the past. She was recently selected as a National Academy of Sciences Kavli Fellow.

Dr. Sarah Myhre

Dr. Myhre is skilled in climate science as well as climate communication. Her area of research is in paleoceanography (the study of past climate and biology through the oceans). Her research requires her team to gather sediment cores from the seafloor, to analyze the chemical compositions and the shells of creatures that are contained within such cores, or to observe deep sea ecosystem using remotely operated submersibles. Her publications have appeared in some of the most prestigious scientific journals.

She may become even better known, however, for her work not only communicating about climate science to the general public but in training other scientists to be communicators. We scientists are often good at talking amongst ourselves, but we are less skilled at explaining why our research is important and how society can use our research to make informed decisions. This is where Dr. Myhre shines. She is a board member of the organization 500 Women Scientists and the Center for Women and Democracy, and is an uncompromising advocate for womens leadership in science and society.

Dr. Myhre and her son at the North Cascades Institute.

Dr. Rita Colwell

World-renowned expert in infectious diseases and health, Dr. Colwell has degrees in bacteriology, genetics, and oceanography; her pioneering use of computational tools and DNA sequencing helped lay the foundation for the bioinformatics revolution. This unique background has allowed her to make connections across these disciplines and enhance our understanding of water availability, disease, safe drinking water, and the effects of climate change on waterborne pathogens.

Dr. Colwell has won numerous national and international awards, such as the 2006 National Medal of Science, the 2010 Stockholm Water Prize, and the 2017 International Prize for Biology, and has and been elected to multiple Halls of Fame. She served as the director of the NSF and has served on numerous advisory roles throughout her career. As with some of the other women discussed here, Dr. Colwell prioritizes scientific communication and engagement with the public, particularly children, and expanding participation of minorities and women in the STEM fields.

Dr. Cynthia Rosenzweig

Nasa Goddard Institute for Space Studies is fortunate to employ Dr. Cynthia Rosenzweig. Her technical focus is on climate change impacts how society will be affected by a changing climate. In addition to her technical research, she has been a tireless service worker in the field, serving as a Coordinating Lead Author on the Fourth IPCC report as well as numerous editing and directorship roles with various climate and adaptation organizations. She also has an appointment at the Center for Climate Systems Research and Columbia University.

Perhaps her most current area of research is on climate and crop productivity. She wants to know how agricultural outputs will change as the climate warms and changes to water availability occur.

Dr. Jane Lubchenco

Dr. Lubchenco is well known as a world leader in the field of environmental science. After decades of innovative research at the intersection of climate change and the ocean, President Obama tapped her to lead the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration the federal agency that keeps the nations climate records, produces much of the federal agency climate science, and leads the U.S. National Climate Assessment. She has focused squarely on the intersection between climate change and human well-being, and the opportunities to mitigate and adapt to climate change through smarter coastal and oceanic policies and practices.

With a technical record extending back more than four decades, it is challenging to find anyone with a stronger pedigree. She has used her prestige to raise the importance of scientific communication amongst her colleagues. In the past, communicating science to the larger public was an afterthought. Dr. Lubchenco made it a critical measure of ones career. Most recently, she has issued a new call-to-arms for scientists to become more engaged with society to counter the post-truth mentality, enable citizens and leaders to have confidence in evidence and science and work together to solve climate and other urgent environmental changes.

None of these short biographies do the scientists justice, but hopefully they give a sense of how some of our top female scientists are contributing to our understanding of the world in which we live. I know they are making a sexist engineer formally employed at Google look a bit silly.

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Conservative groups shrug off link between tropical storm Harvey and climate change

Myron Ebell, who headed the EPAs transition team when Trump became president, said the last decade has been a period of low hurricane activity

Conservative groups with close links to the Trump administration have sought to ridicule the link between climate change and events such as tropical storm Harvey, amid warnings from scientists that storms are being exacerbated by warming temperatures.

Harvey, which smashed into the Texas coast on Friday, rapidly developed into a Category 4 hurricane and has drenched parts of Houston with around 50in of rain in less than a week, more than the city typically receives in a year. So much rain fell that the National Weather Service had to add new colours to its maps.

Quick Guide

Tropical storm Harvey and climate change

Is there a link between the storm and climate change?

Almost certainly, according to astatementissued by the World Meteorological Organization on Tuesday. Climate change means that when we do have an event like Harvey, the rainfall amounts are likely to be higher than they would have been otherwise, the UN organisations spokeswoman Clare Nullis told a conference. Nobody is arguing that climate change caused the storm, but it is likely to have made it much worse.

How did it make it worse?

Warmer seas evaporate more quickly. Warmer air holds more water vapour. So, as temperatures rise around the world, the skies store more moisture and dump it more intensely. The US National Weather Service has had to introduce a new colour on its graphs to deal with the volume of precipitation. Harvey surpassed the previous US record for rainfall from a tropical system, as 49.2 inches was recorded at Marys Creek at Winding Road in Southeast Houston, at 9.20am on Tuesday.

Is this speculation or science?

There is a proven link known as theClausius-Clapeyron equation that shows that for every half a degree celsius in warming, there is about a 3% increase in atmospheric moisture content. This was a factor in Texas. The surface temperature in the Gulf of Mexico is currently more than half a degree celsius higher than the recent late summer average, which is in turn more than half a degree higher than 30 years ago,accordingtoMichael Mannof Penn State University. As a result there was more potential for a deluge.

Are there other links between Harvey and climate change?

Yes, the storm surge was greater because sea levels have risen 20cm as a result of more than 100 years of human-related global warming. This has melted glaciers and thermally expanded the volume of seawater.

The flooding has resulted in at least 15 deaths, with more than 30,000 people forced from their homes. Fema has warned that hundreds of thousands of people will require federal help for several years, with Greg Abbott, governor of Texas, calling Harvey one of the largest disasters America has ever faced. Insurers have warned the cost of the damage could amount to $100bn.

Some scientists have pointed to the tropical storm as further evidence of the dangers of climate change, with Penn State University professor of meteorology Michael Mann stating that warming temperatures worsened the impact of the storm, heightening the risk to life and property.

Conservative groups, however, have mobilized to downplay or mock any association between the storm and climate change. Myron Ebell, who headed the Environmental Protection Agencys transition team when Donald Trump became president, said the last decade has been a period of low hurricane activity and pointed out that previous hurricanes occurred when emissions were lower.

Instead of wasting colossal sums of money on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, much smaller amounts should be spent on improving the infrastructure that protects the Gulf and Atlantic costs, said Ebell, who is director of environmental policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a libertarian thinktank that has received donations from fossil fuel companies such as Exxon Mobil.

Thomas Pyle, who led Trumps transition team for the department of energy, said: It is unfortunate, but not surprising, that the left is exploiting Hurricane Harvey to try and advance their political agenda, but it wont work.

When everything is a problem related to climate change, the solutions no longer become attainable. That is their fundamental problem.

Pyle is president of the Institute of Energy Research, which was founded in Houston but is now based in Washington DC. The nonprofit organization has consistently questioned the science of climate change and has close ties to the Koch family.

The Heartland Institute, a prominent conservative group that produced a blueprint of cuts to the EPA that has been mirrored by the Trump administrations budget, quoted a procession of figures from the worlds of economics, mathematics and engineering to ridicule the climate change dimension of Harvey.

In the bizarro world of the climate change cultists … Harvey will be creatively spun to prove there are dire effects linked to man-created climate change, a theory that is not proven by the available science, said Bette Grande, a Heartland research fellow and a Republican who served in the North Dakota state legislature until 2014.

Facts do not get in the way of climate change alarmism, and we will continue to fight for the truth in the months and years to come.

Harvey was the most powerful storm to hit Texas in 50 years, but according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, it is premature to conclude that there has already been an increase in Atlantic-born hurricanes due to temperatures that have risen globally, on average, by around 1C since the industrial revolution.

Scientists have also been reluctant to assign individual storms to climate change but recent research has sought to isolate global changes from natural variability in disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans in 2005.

However, researchers are also increasingly certain that the warming of the atmosphere and oceans is likely to fuel longer or more destructive hurricanes. A draft of the upcoming national climate assessment states there is high confidence that there will be an increase in the intensity and precipitation rates of hurricanes and typhoons in the Atlantic and Pacific as temperatures rise further.

Harvey may well fit that theory, according to climate scientist Kevin Trenberth, as the hurricane managed to turn from a tropical depression to a category four event in little more than two days, fed by a patch of the Gulf of Mexico that was up to 4C warmer than the long term average.

When storms start to get going, they churn up water from deeper in the ocean and this colder water can slow them down, said Trenberth, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. But if the upwelling water is warmer, it gives them a longer lifetime and larger intensity. There is now more ocean heat deep below the surface. The Atlantic was primed for an event like this.

While the number of hurricanes may actually fall, scientists warn the remaining events will likely be stronger. A warmer atmosphere holds more evaporated water, which can fuel precipitation Trenberth said as much as 30% of Harveys rainfall could be attributed to global warming. For lower-lying areas, the storm surge created by hurricanes is worsened by a sea level that is rising, on average, by around 3.5mm a year across the globe.

The oil and gas industry has sought to see off the threat in the Gulf of Mexico with taller platforms post-Katrina, offshore rigs are around 90ft above sea level compared to 70ft in the 1990s but the Houston, the epicenter of the industry, is considered vulnerable due to its relaxed approach to planning that has seen housing built in flood-prone areas.

Barack Obamas administration established a rule that sought to flood-proof new federal infrastructure projects by demanding they incorporate the latest climate change science. Last week, Trump announced he would scrap the rule, provoking a rebuke from Carlos Curbelo, a Florida Republican congressman who called the move irresponsible.

Curbelo, who has attempted to rally Republicans to address climate change, wouldnt comment on the climate change link to Harvey. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, Texass Republican senators, didnt respond to questions on the climate link, nor did Abbott, the states governor, or Dan Patrick, Texass lieutenant governor. All four of the Texas politicians have expressed doubts over the broad scientific understanding that the world is warming and that human activity is the primary cause.

Its essential to talk about climate change in relation to events like Hurricane Harvey and its sad a lot of reports dont mention it in any way, said Trenberth.

You dont want to overstate it but climate change is a contributor and is making storms more intense. A relatively small increase in intensity can do a tremendous amount of damage. Its enough for thresholds to be crossed and for things to start breaking.

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New EPA head Scott Pruitt’s emails reveal close ties with fossil fuel interests

Documents suggest former Oklahoma AG followed lobby groups guidance on challenging environmental regulations, and put letterhead to oil firm complaints more than once

The close relationship between Scott Pruitt, the new administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and fossil fuel interests including the billionaire Koch brothers has been highlighted in more than 7,500 emails and other records released by the Oklahoma attorney generals office on Wednesday.

The documents show that Pruitt, while Oklahoma attorney general, acted in close concert with oil and gas companies to challenge environmental regulations, even putting his letterhead to a complaint filed by one firm, Devon Energy. This practice was first revealed in 2014, but it now appears that it occurred more than once.

The emails also show that American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, an oil and gas lobby group, provided Pruitts office with template language to oppose ozone limits and the renewable fuel standard program in 2013. AFPM encouraged Oklahoma to challenge the rules, noting: This argument is more credible coming from a state. Later that year, Pruitt did file opposition to both of these regulations.

The letters also show the cosy relationship between Pruitt and the American Legislative Exchange Council (Alec), the influential US lobbying network of Republican politicians and big businesses, and other lobby groups sponsored by the Koch brothers, the billionaire energy investors who have spent decades fighting against environmental regulation.

Alec has consistently challenged the science on climate change and fought against tougher environmental regulation. Companies including Google, Ford and Enterprise Rent-a-Car have quit Alec in protest of its climate change activities.

The emails contain correspondence between Pruitts executive assistant and Amy Anderson, Alec director and Oklahoma membership contact, about Pruitts appearance at a May 2013 Alec board meeting in Oklahoma City.

That meeting attracted more protesters than attendees, with 600 firefighters, teachers, environmentalists and church leaders carrying signs reading ALEC is Not OK and chanting: Backroom deals are Alecs game / Sweetheart deals for corporate gain.

Pruitt addressed a workshop entitled Embracing American Energy Opportunities: From Wellheads to Pipelines.

The emails state that Pruitt spoke on state primacy in oil and gas regulation and the EPAs sue & settle modus operandi. The lunch meeting was sponsored by Koch Industries, a major Alec sponsor.

Pruitt was congratulated for his work on pushing back against the EPA by another Koch-backed pressure group.

Thank you to your respective bosses and all they are doing to push back against President Obamas EPA and its axis with liberal environmental groups to increase energy costs for Oklahomans and American families across the states, said one email sent to Pruitt and an Oklahoma congressman in August 2013 by Matt Ball, an executive at Americans for Prosperity, a nonprofit group also funded in part by the Kochs. You both work for true champions of freedom and liberty! the note said.

Last week, an Oklahoma judge ordered that emails from a January 2015 open records request be released by Tuesday. A further batch of emails is due to be turned over next week. The Center for Media and Democracy, which has made nine separate open records requests for Pruitts emails, said it will attempt to obtain all of the sought-after communications without exceptions.

Pruitt was confirmed as EPA administrator on Friday. Democrats had sought to delay the Senate vote until the emails were released but were unsuccessful.

The emails show a very cosy relationship between Pruitts office and particularly Devon Energy, as well as other coal, oil and gas companies, said Nick Surgey, research director at the Center for Media and Democracy.

Pruitt is the worlds top environmental regulator now and these emails raise serious conflict of interest concerns. He has very close ties to fossil fuel firms and has shown himself to be generally opposed to the rules the EPA has to protect the environment.

Pruitts appointment as EPA chief has been vigorously opposed by environmental groups, Democrats and even some EPA staff as antithetical to the agencys mission. More than 700 former EPA employees wrote to senators to urge them to vote against Pruitt, while some current staff in Chicago took part in protests against him. This effort did little to budge the mathematics of the Senate, with only one Republican, Susan Collins of Maine, voting against Pruitt.

Following the confirmation, the EPA put out a press release listing those that cheer Pruitts appointment. They include Republican representatives and lobbyists for mining, farming and grazing, who were quoted in the EPAs own release calling the agency rogue and one of the most vilified agencies in the swamp of overreaching government.

The former Oklahoma attorney general, a Republican, has described himself as a leading advocate against the EPAs activist agenda and sued the regulator 14 times over pollution regulations relating to mercury, smog, methane and sulfur dioxide. Fossil fuel companies or lobbyists, a frequent source of Pruitts past donations, joined with him in 13 of these cases against the EPA.

A staunch opponent of what he sees as federal overreach, Pruitt said following his appointment that citizens dont trust the EPA is honest with its scientific work, particularly around climate change. Pruitt has said he accepts the planet is warming but has questioned the degree of human influence over this, despite the volumes of scientific literature on the impact of greenhouse gases.

In his first speech at EPA headquarters in Washington on Tuesday, Pruitt praised career employees and promised to listen, learn and lead. He said regulators such as the EPA ought to make things regular. Regulators exist to give certainty to those that they regulate.

He added: I believe that we as a nation can be both pro-energy and -jobs, and pro-environment. We dont have to choose between the two.

John OGrady, an EPA environmental scientist and head of a union that represents 9,000 agency staff, said that Pruitt came across very professionally and conciliatory, he didnt come out heavy handed.

But OGrady said that many staff are nervously waiting for the administrations agenda to unfold, with Donald Trump expected to sign executive orders that aim to do away with the EPAs effort to reduce greenhouse gases and regulate Americas expanse of waterways.

Mr Pruitt isnt a proponent of addressing climate change or of a strong EPA, so it wont surprise me when they start to whittle away at what we do as an agency, OGrady told the Guardian. Im wondering when the hammer is going to fall.

  • Readers: help us search the cache of Scott Pruitts emails. Follow this link and scroll down to find nine documents containing the emails. Each document is searchable using keywords. If you spot something interesting, email

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