E.P.A. official: White House staffers censored global warming report

The Bush administration’s environmental policy reputation has suffered yet another blow, after a former E.P.A. advisor accused the office of the Vice President of altering prepared testimony by the head of the CDC. The advisor, Jason K. Burnett, alleged that Cheney’s office removed parts of the testimony related to the health risks associated with global warming:

In the letter, while declining to name individuals, Mr. Burnett said the offices of Mr. Cheney and the White House Council on Environmental Quality “were seeking deletions” of sections of draft testimony describing health risks from warming. The testimony was prepared by Dr. Julie L. Gerberding, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for a hearing last October before Mrs. Boxer’s committee.

Mr. Burnett’s letter said the council “requested that I work with C.D.C. to remove from the testimony any discussion of the human health consequences of climate change.”

While Mr. Burnett’s credibility should be considered carefully, given his political history, such blatant disregard for environmental policy is not unprecedented from the Bush administration. Last month, senior E.P.A. officials accused the Bush administration of pressuring them to remove their conclusion that greenhouse gases must be controlled from an environmental analysis. And more than one half of the sixteen-hundred EPA employees who responded to an online questionnaire reported that they faced “incidents of political interference” while at work.

To avoid this sort of outrageous political meddling in the future, the E.P.A. must be reformed. To put federal environmental policy in the hands of political appointees is irresponsible; there are too many conflicting interests in the world of politics to risk the global climate on it. Congress must look towards the Environmental Agency of England and Wales, a Non-Departmental Public Body that does its work farther from the reaches of political hands, as a model for reform of the E.P.A, and allow scientists a greater voice in shaping federal environmental policy.

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