Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Boxer Charges White House Of Reckless Cover-Up Of Warming Issues

Jul 8: Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chair of the Senate Environment and Pubic Works Committee, held a press briefing on the issue of White House Interference in Addressing the Dangers of Global Warming. Senator Boxer delivered a statement saying, "You have heard me say many times that this Administration has downplayed the dangers posed by global warming. They have used every excuse to avoid taking action, even hiding behind China and India. Now, thanks to a very brave former EPA official, Jason Burnett, who has responded to an inquiry from this committee, who is here today, we know that the Administration's efforts have been about covering up the real dangers of global warming and hiding the facts from the public. This cover-up is being directed from the White House and the Office of the Vice President."

The Senator's charges add to those that have already been uncovered and revealed previously by Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA), Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Representative Waxman is still deciding how we should proceed on his investigation of White House interference, since the President asserted executive privilege over thousands of pages of documents that would show whether the President and his staff complied with the Clean Air Act (CAA) in overruling EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson on important environmental decisions [
See WIMS 6/20/08].

Boxer said she had met with Burnett, who resigned from the Agency after concluding that no constructive action on global warming would take place during this Administration. She said, "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. In October of 2007, when we held a hearing on the health impacts of global warming, we were stunned to learn that the testimony of CDC Director Julie Gerberding was watered down and heavily redacted. We now know that this censorship was part of a master plan. The goal of the plan was to ensure that the EPA's response to the Supreme Court decision in Massachusetts v. EPA would be as weak as possible."

On December 10, 2007, Waxman release a proposed report on some of his investigations that highlighted the climate change testimony of Dr. Julie Gerberding, the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Dr. Thomas Karl, the Director of National Climatic Data Center, who appeared before Boxer's Committee and the House Oversight Committee and said their testimony was heavily edited by both White House officials and political appointees at the Commerce Department [
See WIMS 12/11/07]. It said, there was a systematic White House effort to minimize the significance of climate change by editing climate change reports. It indicates the White House insisted on edits to EPA’s draft Report on the Environment (ROE) were so extreme that the EPA Administrator opted to eliminate the climate change section of the report.

At that time, White House Press Secretary, Dana Perino, rebuked Waxman and his Committee for releasing the report at the time of the Bali, UNFCCC climate change meeting saying it was "rehashed rhetoric that has come out of the Democrats beforehand, and we just reject it as being untrue." In response to a question stating, Did the White House ever asked employees at agencies like NOAA to suppress climate change information and science?; Perino said, "Not that I'm aware and I do not believe that is true. "

Boxer said at her briefing, "What started in October with Dr. Gerberding's censored testimony [See WIMS 10/24/08] continued into December, when the EPA had finally decided to begin to tell the truth about the dangers posed by unchecked global warming. The Office of Management and Budget at the White House refused to open the e-mail containing the provisional endangerment finding from the EPA. When EPA refused to retract the e-mail, the finding was left in limbo. These two things - the CDC censorship and the stonewall on the endangerment finding -- are obviously related."

Boxer said that the CDC wanted to go into detail in its testimony about: Direct effects of heat [including mortality]; Health and safety effects related to extreme weather events; Air pollution-related health effects; Allergic diseases; Water- and food-borne infectious diseases; Vector-borne diseases; Food and water scarcity for some populations; Mental health problems; and, Long-term impacts of chronic diseases and other health effects. But, she said, "their testimony was altered. CDC's work clearly would lead us to the endangerment finding. Fortunately, thanks to the free press and the work of congressional committees, the CDC's concerns were made known, adding to the pressure on the EPA to make the endangerment finding."

As a result of her latest findings, Boxer announced a series of six actions: (1) I am asking EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson to release every document related to the Agency's finding that global warming poses a danger to the public, including bringing the endangerment e-mail back to earth. (2) EPA should also immediately release a strong advance notice of proposed rulemaking on global warming emissions. (3) If the information is not released, then I will use every means available to this Committee to obtain it. (4) I am sending Jason Burnett's letter on the Administration's efforts to block action on global warming to the Governor and Attorney General of California so they may be fully informed of the Bush Administration's misconduct relating to global warming, which may directly affect California's efforts to protect the public from this serious threat. (5) I will hold a hearing on July 22 to present the most recent evidence of the serious danger posed by global warming. Mr. Burnett will be a witness. (6) This Committee will also continue its work on how current authorities under the Clean Air Act could be used to address global warming now. We will hold a hearing on that subject in the fall, Mr. Burnett has agreed to give his advice and testimony, and we will issue a Committee report so that the next President can have all of our findings at his disposal at the start of the next Administration.

Boxer concluded saying if Administrator Johnson cannot deliver on items 1 & 2 above, ". . .he should resign. The American people need the head of the EPA to be an independent advocate for their health and their environment." She also said, "This is not about me, or about Mr. Johnson, or President Bush, or Vice President Cheney or Mr. Burnett. It is about protecting the public and the planet. . . History will judge this Bush Administration harshly for recklessly covering up a real threat to the people they are supposed to protect."

Access the Boxer press statement and links to the letter from Burnett, CDC testimony and related background documents (
click here). [*Climate]