Key staffers at the Environmental Protection Agency were forced to ignore science and often had to come up with findings that supported already-existing policy ideas, according to findings from a scientific advisory board. Interviews with 450 EPA employees reveal that they often worked without critical information needed to protect the public.
EPA has an enormous mandate — protecting air, water, land and human health from environmental pollutants. While some staffers gave the agency high marks, the interviews overall portray an organization that has been hobbled by political pressure to avoid damaging industry; has lacked sufficient scientists in regional offices; has been slow to act against known hazards, and has had a tendency to let products with harmful pollutants enter the marketplace and the environment without first ensuring their safety.
This study follows accusations by former EPA official Jason Burnett, who charged before his June 9, 2o08 resignation that then-Vice President Dick Cheney’s office urged him to delete or water down testimony to Congress on the impact of global warming.
Burnett also said the White House blocked an effort by the EPA to issue an endangerment finding, a conclusion that climate change is a threat to the public. Under a Supreme Court ruling last year, the finding would have forced the administration to cut emissions.
Burnett said an official in Cheney’s office – he declined to name the person – asked him to change a sentence in testimony being prepared for EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson (pictured with George W. Bush), Burnett’s boss, to deliver to a Senate committee Jan. 24, 2008, that read, “greenhouse gas emissions harm the environment.” Burnett said he replied that if Cheney’s office wanted to change the language, they’d have to contact Johnson himself. The language stayed in.
The National Resources Defense Council noticed a decline in environmental monitoring during the Bush years.
“During the Bush years they created a ‘hear no evil, see no evil’ situation,” NRDC senior scientist Dr. Gina Solomon said. “Since things weren’t being tested and monitored it looked liked there were no problems out there. … I have to credit the current administration and Congress. There have been big improvements in monitoring programs over the past year and there’s still a lot that needs to be done.”