Laurie Williams and Allan Zabel are EPA attorneys who have taken up advocating against cap-and-trade on behalf of rebated carbon taxes, most recently in a Washington Post op-ed. They also posted a video to YouTube making many of the same arguments at somewhat greater length. Now the EPA has instructed them to take the video down by the close of business today, at pain of disciplinary action from EPA ethics officials, and to submit any future drafts to EPA officials before posting. Here it is (likely gone soon):
The issue is in how Williams & Zabel identify themselves. In the WaPo op-ed they are identified merely as “EPA attorneys.” In the video they say the following:
Our opinions are based on more than 20 years each working as attorneys at the US EPA in the San Francisco regional office. However, nothing in this video is intended to represent the views of EPA or the Obama administration.
Later, Zabel says:
In my work at EPA I have been overseeing California’s cap-and-trade and offset programs for more than 20 years. My unique and extensive experience has convinced me that carbon offsets won’t work.
EPA officials have informed Williams & Zabel that they may not reveal that they’ve worked at EPA for 20 years, or that Zabel has direct experience with offsets. They may only mention, once, that they are “EPA attorneys.”
Williams & Zabel are consulting with EPA ethics officials and seeking legal counsel. EPA Press Secretary Adora Andy said on Friday evening that she was gathering information on the issue before commenting.
When Bush administration NASA officials attempted to monitor and control what scientist James Hansen said to the press, they were rightly criticized. By the same token, even though I think many of Williams & Zabel’s policy arguments are deeply flawed, I can’t see any justification for refusing them the right to communicate honestly about their backgrounds to the public. EPA should back off.