Muckraker: Grist on Politics

Dick Cheney.

In a letter [PDF] made public today, former deputy EPA administrator Jason Burnett indicates that both the Office of the Vice President and the Council on Environmental Quality have attempted to censor discussion of the consequences that global warming poses to human health.

 

Burnett, who went public about the administration’s obstruction after leaving the EPA in early June, detailed the interference in a letter to Environment and Public Works Chair Barbara Boxer responding to an inquiry [PDF] she sent to him last week. In the letter, which was made public today, Burnett outlines several instances of White House interference with the agency’s findings.

He says that in December, the White House asked him not to send the endangerment findings, though Burnett had already emailed them to the White House Office of Management and Budget. Upon realizing the document had already been sent, Burnett says he received a “phone call from the White House” asking him to to send a follow-up email saying that the document “had been sent in error.”

“I explained I could not do this because it was not true,” writes Burnett.

He also notes that in the fall of 2007, the Council on Environmental Quality and the Office of the Vice President asked him to work with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to remove portions of their report detailing the threats that climate change poses to human health.

And in January of this year, when EPA officials were preparing their testimony to Boxer’s committee for a hearing about the decision to deny California a waiver, an official in the Office of the Vice President called Burnett to tell him that they wanted the phrase “greenhouse-gas emissions harm the environment” altered in the prepared remarks. Burnett refused, and in the end the testimony was presented as prepared.

EPW chair Boxer held a press conference today on this new information. “I have met with Mr. Burnett, who informed me that he resigned from the agency after concluding that no constructive action on global warming would take place during this Administration,” said Boxer. “What a sad day it is for the American people that they lost a brilliant professional who wanted to protect us from the ravages of global warming.”

“We now know that this censorship was part of a master plan,” Boxer continued. “History will judge this Bush administration harshly for recklessly covering up a real threat to the people they are supposed to protect.”

Boxer is asking that EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson release every document related to the Agency’s endangerment finding, including the email that the White House has refused to open. She’s also requesting that the EPA release their Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on global warming emissions in its original form. She called for Johnson’s resignation if he doesn’t bring forward these documents, and pledged to do everything within the committee’s power to obtain those documents.

Boxer said that the EPW Committee will hold a hearing on July 22 on the most recent evidence of the health threats posed by global warming, in which Burnett will be called as a witness. She said they will also host a hearing in the fall and draft a committee report on the findings for the next administration.