From the Wonk Room.
Last fall, as the Environmental Protection Agency worked to satisfy its Supreme Court mandate to protect the American public from the threat of greenhouse gases, White House officials took steps to prevent such action. In a letter responding to questions by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), chair of the Committee on Environment and Public Works, former EPA official Jason K. Burnett implicated the Office of the Vice President, Dick Cheney, as well as the White House Council on Environmental Quality for censoring “any discussion of the human health consequences of climate change” in testimony to Congress.
Although Burnett refused to assist in the efforts, the October testimony of Dr. Julie Geberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was “eviscerated,” with ten pages detailing the specific health threats of global warming – ranging from heat waves to floods – eliminated. After initial denials of White House interference, White House Press Secretary Dana Perino later claimed that the Office of Management and Budget had redacted testimony that contained “broad characterizations about climate change science that didn’t align with the IPCC.”
In fact, Burnett tells Sen. Boxer that the reason for the cuts was to “keep options open” for the EPA to avoid making an endangerment finding for global warming pollution, which would trigger immediate consequences for polluters. He writes:
On December 5th, under the direction of EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson, Burnett emailed a formal endangerment finding to the White House Office of Management and Budget, but received a “phone call from the White House” that asked Burnett “to send a follow-up note saying that the email had been sent in error.” He declined to retract the email, which remained unread. Two weeks later, on December 19, Johnson put an end to EPA’s work on global warming regulations and rejected California’s petition to regulate tailpipe greenhouse gas emissions.
This May, Burnett resigned from the EPA. In June, President Bush asserted executive privilege to block investigation of his involvement. Boxer has called Burnett to testify before her committee on July 22, in a hearing on “the most recent evidence of the serious danger posed by global warming.” In a statement today, Boxer said:
History will judge this Bush Administration harshly for recklessly covering up a real threat to the people they are supposed to protect.
Read Dr. Gerberding’s unredacted testimony here.
The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, chaired by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), today released a draft report entitled Political Interference with Climate Change Science Under the Bush Administration.
The report is based on the committee’s January 30 and March 19 hearings, depositions, and interviews of government officials on White House censorship and manipulation of governmental climate change science over the last 16 months.
Scientists, reports, and testimony from NOAA, NASA, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Climatic Data Center, and the Environmental Protection Agency were affected.Findings include:
- Media requests to speak with federal scientists on climate change matters were sent to Council on Environmental Quality for White House approval
- The White House edited congressional testimony regarding the science of climate change
- CEQ Chief of Staff Phil Cooney and other CEQ officials made at least 294 edits to the Administration’s Strategic Plan for the Climate Change Science Program to exaggerate or emphasize scientific uncertainties or to deemphasize or diminish the importance of the human role in global warming
- The White House insisted on edits to EPA’s draft Report on the Environment that were so extreme that the EPA Administrator opted to eliminate the climate change section of the report
- CEQ eliminated the climate change section of the EPA’s Air Trends Report
- CEQ Chairman James Connaughton edited the August 2003 EPA legal opinion disavowing authority to regulate greenhouse gases
In a story reported by Associated Press (see Washington Post, ED, WattHead, CQ), Barbara Boxer revealed that CDC director Julie Gerberding’s written testimony (uncensored version) at Tuesday’s EPW hearing on global warming impacts on health was dramatically cut by the White House’s Office of Management and Budget after questions were raised by John H. Marburger III, director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy.
Six of the deleted pages detailed how global warming might affect Americans and they included a section with the title, “Climate Change is a Public Concern.”On Wednesday, House Science Committee Chairman Bart Gordon and Investigations Subcommittee Chair Brad Miller sent a letter to Marburger formally requesting all documents related to the matter by next Monday:
We expect our government researchers and scientists to provide to both Congress and the public the full results of their taxpayer-supported work without the filter that those of opposing views might like to impose. Otherwise, we cannot have a full and free scientific debate.Marburger released a statement today (from Andy Revkin’s NYT Dot Earth blog), claiming:
Those commentators have missed or ignored several nuanced but important differences between the I.P.C.C. report’s findings and the draft testimony.Barbara Boxer responsed:
Dr. Marburger’s statement is a lame defense of the White House action to censor information the American people deserve to know about the dangers of global warming.DeSmogBlog shows what was cut from the report, saying:
These were not minor edits the White House PR spin machine would like us to believe. The word-count for the CDC Director’s Senate testimony went from 3,107 to 1,500 after the White House got through with it.
Whole sections on health related effects to extreme weather, air pollution-related health effect, allergic diseases, water and food-borne infectious diseases, food and water scarcity and the long term impacts of chronic diseases and other health effects were completely wiped out of the testimony.