Thursday, July 10, 2008

CHENEY BEHIND CENSORED, MISLEADING TESTIMONY ON CLIMATE CHANGE

Progress Report Last October, Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, testified before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee about the "Human Impacts of Global Warming." Gerberding told the committee that global warming "is anticipated to have a broad range of impacts on the health of Americans," but she gave few specifics, instead focusing on the CDC's current preparation plans. Soon after Gerberding delivered her testimony, CDC officials revealed that the White House had "eviscerated" her testimony by editing it down from 14 pages to four. The White House initially claimed that Gerberding's testimony had not been "watered down," but White House Press Secretary Dana Perino later admitted that the Office of Management and Budget had removed testimony that contained "broad characterizations about climate change science that didn't align with the [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change]." In a letter responding to questions by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), former EPA official Jason Burnett revealed that Vice President Dick Cheney's office and the Council on Environmental Quality pushed to "remove from the testimony any discussion of the human health consequences of climate change." During a news conference yesterday, Boxer chided Perino's previous claim that the edits were made in order to align the testimony with the IPCC. "This was a lie," said Boxer. The White House, however, refused to admit wrongdoing. "We stand 100 percent behind what Dana said," White House spokesperson Tony Fratto told reporters.

The White House's deletions, which were "overwhelmingly denounced" by scientists and environmental health experts, included "details on how many people might be adversely affected because of increased warming and the scientific basis for some of the CDC's analysis on what kinds of diseases might be spread in a warmer climate and rising sea levels." The cuts made by the White House included "the only statements casting the health risks from climate change as a problem, describing it variously as posing 'difficult challenges' and as 'a serious public health concern.'" At the time, Perino claimed that "the decision" was made "to focus that testimony on public health benefits" of climate change. "There are public health benefits to climate change," asserted Perino. But in his letter to Boxer, Burnett said 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 was required by a recent Supreme Court ruling. . .

It's apparent that the level of editing involved in Gerberding's testimony was out of the ordinary. In October, a CDC official told the press that while it was normal for testimony to be changed in a White House review, the changes made to Gerberding's testimony were particularly "heavy-handed." In an interview with CNN yesterday, Gerberding said that she "wasn't aware that there had been any edits" to her testimony until she "got to the hearing." Gerberding maintained that she did "the very best" she could to "answer the senators' questions honestly and openly." Cheney's spokeswoman, Lea Anne McBride, refused to comment on the allegations against Cheney's office, simply saying, "We don't comment on internal deliberations."

In his letter to Boxer, Burnett revealed that Cheney's office had also objected in January to congressional testimony by EPA administrator Stephen Johnson that "greenhouse gas emissions harm the environment." According to Burnett, an official in Cheney's office "called to tell me that his office wanted the language changed." Such actions are not unusual for Cheney. Since taking office, he has taken "a decisive role to undercut long-standing environmental regulations for the benefit of business" while undermining any real action to combat climate change. In December, after Johnson "answered the pleas of industry executives" by announcing his decision to deny California the right to regulate greenhouse gases from vehicles, it was revealed that executives from the auto industry had appealed directly to Cheney. EPA staffers told the Los Angeles Times that Johnson "made his decision" only after Cheney met with the executives. Since February 2007, Cheney has quietly maneuvered to exert increased control over environmental policy by federal agencies -- particularly the regulations on greenhouse gas emissions.