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EPA staffers go to Hill over global warming

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  • Mike Neuman
    EPA staffers go to Hill over global warming Dissatisfied with the agency s greenhouse-gas emissions program, labor leaders are pleading for congressional
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 1, 2006
      EPA staffers go to Hill over global warming

      Dissatisfied with the agency's greenhouse-gas emissions program,
      labor leaders are pleading for congressional intervention.
      By Peter N. Spotts | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
      December 01, 2006

      This week, labor leaders representing more than 10,000 Environmental
      Protection Agency scientists, engineers, and staff have asked
      Congress to hold aggressive oversight hearings on the agency's own
      greenhouse-gas emissions programs.

      Under the Bush administration's voluntary approach, the labor
      leaders' petition says, the agency isn't doing enough to encourage
      the use of current technology to control carbon-dioxide emissions,
      the leading cause of human-induced climate change. In fact, the time
      for a voluntary program is over, the leaders say.

      "The science is too clear and the consequences are too grave" to
      continue down the path the administration is following, says William
      Hirzy, an EPA senior scientist currently on a teaching assignment at
      American University. He's vice president of the National Treasury
      Employees Union chapter that represents employees at EPA headquarters
      in Washington.

      The labor leaders, who are presidents of the EPA's 22 union locals,
      also called on lawmakers to ensure that agency experts are allowed to
      speak freely and openly about global warming with the public and
      Congress "without fear of reprisal."

      In addition, the petition, which was sent to two key Capitol Hill
      committees, asks lawmakers to "support a vigorous program of
      enforcement and reduction in GHG [greenhouse-gas] emissions."

      The administration has held that regulating CO2 is outside the
      agency's purview. Indeed, this week, the US Supreme Court heard
      arguments in a suit against the EPA over this issue. Deputy Solicitor
      General Gregory Garre argued that Congress never gave the EPA
      authority to regulate CO2. Even if the agency had the authority, he
      continued, "now is not the time to exercise such authority, in light
      of the substantial scientific uncertainty surrounding global climate
      change and the ongoing studies to address those uncertainties."

      The petition's drafters say they originally planned to release the
      document in a few weeks, on the eve of the new, Democratically led
      Congress. But they opted to send the document to the House Energy and
      Commerce Committee and the Senate Environment and Public Works
      Committee this week as the high court heard oral arguments on the

      This is not the first time EPA's unions have flagged issues that some
      members reportedly have difficulty raising through bureaucratic
      channels. And it's unclear how deep the petition's sentiments run
      through the agency's rank and file. "We can't say it's 100 percent,"
      Dr. Hirzy acknowledges.

      Still, the unions represent the only safe avenue for career
      scientists and engineers to speak out, according to Jeff Ruch,
      executive director of Public Employees for Environmental
      Responsibility. In 2005, he explains, the US Supreme Court held that
      public employees couldn't rely on the First Amendment to shield them
      from retaliation if they blew the whistle on unethical or illegal
      activities on the job.

      The petition comes at a time when speculation is rising in Washington
      that President Bush may substantially modify his approach to carbon
      emissions. In press interviews, some administration officials have
      hinted that Mr. Bush is preparing to unveil new energy and climate
      policies, perhaps in his State of the Union message early next year.

      Some analysts say that the White House has polled energy companies,
      asking: What's your bottom line on possible regulations? In October,
      the head of Shell Oil, speaking at the National Press Club, said that
      a patchwork of state rules would be too hard to deal with, and that a
      national program is needed.

      "You've got different dynamics at play," and the logical place to
      look for a new position would be the State of the Union address, says
      John Stanton, vice president of the National Environmental Trust.

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