Censorship on global-warming effects alleged

Vice President Dick Cheney's office and the White House demanded that all mention of how global warming harms human health be cut from testimony to Congress last fall, a former Environmental Protection Agency official who had a key role on climate policy said Tuesday.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., charged that the new information from the former official showed that the White House and Cheney were covering up the dangers of global warming in an attempt to block the EPA from taking action.

Boxer said the information also was significant in California's efforts to get a waiver to impose tougher air-quality regulations than federal law required. The EPA turned down California's request.

“I think it's definitely tied to the waiver, because if you hide the danger it gives you more reason to say, ‘Oh, I'm not granting the waiver. No one's in danger,'” she said.

“We don't discuss internal deliberations,” Cheney spokeswoman Lea Anne McBride said.

The former EPA official, Jason Burnett, said in a letter to Boxer dated Sunday that the White House Council on Environmental Quality and Cheney's office wanted to cut any discussion of the human health consequences of climate change from testimony to Congress last October by Julie Gerberding, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Burnett said he checked with EPA scientists and concluded Gerberding's details about the threats were accurate, so he refused to tell the CDC to delete them.

They were deleted, anyway. White House Press Secretary Dana Perino said in October that the cuts were ordered because of doubts about the soundness of the science of Gerberding's planned testimony. But Gerberding's list of global warming dangers matched findings of international scientists in the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports, and the administration accepts the scientific consensus in those reports.

Boxer said Gerberding's original testimony would have supported EPA staff's efforts to show that greenhouse gases endangered health.

“We now know that this censorship was not haphazard. It was part of a master plan” to ensure that the EPA's response to a Supreme Court decision that found that greenhouse gases are air pollutants “would be as weak as possible,” Boxer charged.

Burnett coordinated EPA climate-change policy. His main job was to respond to the Supreme Court decision requiring the EPA to determine whether the gases endanger public health and to issue regulations to protect Americans.

Burnett's letter said EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson had asked the staff to draft a provisional finding that the gases do endanger public welfare. Burnett sent the report by e-mail, but the White House has refused to open it. So, the finding isn't available to the public.

Boxer said Johnson should release the e-mailed finding and all other documents related to the EPA's conclusions about the dangers of global warming.