Cheney's Office Pushed
Climate Change Testimony
SIOBHAN HUGHES / Wall Street Journal 8jul2008
WASHINGTON — U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney's office was behind a push to censor congressional testimony that global warming poses a danger to the public, a former Environmental Protection Agency official told Congress.
The director of the Centers for Disease Control testified to a U.S. Senate panel last year about the public health effects of climate change in testimony that was heavily edited by the White House's Office of Management and Budget. Until now, Mr. Cheney's office hadn't been publicly linked to the efforts to keep information about climate change out of the public eye.
"The Council on Environmental Quality and the Office of the Vice President were seeking deletions to the CDC testimony," Jason Burnett, formerly an EPA associate deputy administrator, wrote in a letter dated July 6 to U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (D., Calif.).
"I read the testimony, checked with EPA scientists, and came to the conclusion that the draft testimony was fundamentally accurate as written," he wrote.
Megan Mitchell, a spokeswoman for Cheney's office, said that the office doesn't comment on internal deliberations. "The interagency review process exists so that agencies and offices can comment and offer their views," she wrote. "This is no different than in any other administration."
The disclosure about Cheney's office heightens the tension between the Democratic Congress and the Bush administration on the nation's top environmental issue — climate change. For months, Democrats in Congress have complained that the EPA has stymied efforts to deal with climate change, including by blocking California efforts to regulate motor-vehicle greenhouse gas emissions, and by withholding a finding that climate change poses a danger to public health and the environment. Now, the rhetoric is ratcheting up.
"We know that the administration's efforts have been about covering up the real dangers of global warming and hiding facts from the public," Sen. Boxer said at a press conference Tuesday. "This cover-up is being directed from the White House and the Office of the Vice President."
The allegations come as the EPA is in a standoff with the OMB over the publication of a document that could become the legal roadmap for regulating greenhouse-gas emissions in the U.S. The draft document, reviewed by Dow Jones Newswires, outlines how the government could regulate emissions from sources such as cars and trucks, power plants and refineries.
But OMB asked the EPA to delete sections of the document that say such emissions endanger public welfare, according to people familiar with the matter. It marks at least the second such time that the Bush administration has sought to keep such findings away from the public.
"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," Sen. Boxer said.
She said she will hold a July 22 hearing on the most recent evidence of dangers posed by global warming.