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.