Closing Out Our 25th Year
This year, PEER celebrated its 25th anniversary. While we are not a big organization, we have generated a track record of major accomplishments in that time.
2018 was no exception. During the past twelve months, for example, we –
- Exposed perhaps the largest case of eco-fraud in recent history by showing that the sampling behind the cleanup of massive radioactive contamination at San Francisco’s Hunters Point Naval Shipyard was riddled with falsification and fabrication, putting thousands of residents in potential jeopardy and throwing the two-decade cleanup into chaos. This is part of a larger effort to show EPA dereliction of duty adversely affecting scores of Superfund sites across the country;
- Protected children by forcing EPA to improve its inspections and strengthen enforcement of protections against exposing young children to lead dust in older homes and apartments. This victory arose from our representation of a courageous EPA whistleblower who revealed long-standing, systemic deficiencies in the program for ensuring that repairs and renovations are done in a lead-safe manner – a requirement that is the product of an earlier successful PEER lawsuit to close the largest pathway for lead exposure that endangered 1.4 million children a year;
- Helped avert a massive new source of mercury pollution by exposing a scheme to use this neuro-toxin as a propellant in “mega-constellations” of thousands of satellites to provide global Internet broadband service starting in 2019. This large-scale orbital discharge of mercury would have reversed planetary progress in reducing mercury emissions. We are working to close the legal loophole that allowed this scheme to even be considered;
- Struck a blow for transparency in winning a ruling that Scott Pruitt violated federal records laws by systematically failing to create and maintain documents of essential EPA activities. In response, EPA has scrambled to adopt an Interim Records Management Policy and a new transparency pledge, but these will not cure past violations. We are now seeking discovery in our suit to do forensic searches into recent closed-door EPA decisions. The ruling puts teeth into the Federal Records Act and has implications across the entire Trump administration;
- Drew extensive media and public scrutiny to the role the collapse in Florida water pollution enforcement played in state’s deadly red tide and blue-green algae bloom crisis. Our reports document how pollution enforcement has fallen to a 30-year low. Water pollution prosecutions are practically nonexistent. Nor is any effort made to stop billions of pounds of manure from washing into Lake Okeechobee, fueling an algae bloom factory. In addition, we have filed a series of enforcement complaints with EPA seeking its intervention to revive the state’s moribund clean water enforcement program;
- Won a major settlement in the academic freedom complaint of Washington State’s leading wolf expert, thus ending a campaign of harassment and threats from his university because his research findings upset ranchers and a state legislator. This is one of several fronts we are pursuing to stop misguided and counterproductive lethal predator control programs in states ranging from Alaska to Massachusetts; and
- Demonstrated through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit that Scott Pruitt could not produce any scientific evidence supporting his public statements that human activity is not a factor driving global climate change. This revelation helped derail Pruitt’s much derided plan to stage a “red team/blue team” debate about well-settled climate science. We also used a FOIA lawsuit to demonstrate how EPA’s Office of Public Affairs ran a fake news factory to discredit employees who sounded the alarm as they left the agency and to help force a house-cleaning.
Of course, there is still much more to do. Your continuing support will keep us on the job.
Oh, and Happy New Year!
Portrait of Climate Science Persecution
In December, PEER came to the aid of an embattled climate scientist, Dr. George Luber, an epidemiologist, who is Chief of the Climate and Health Program at the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. Our intervention caused CDC to rescind a bogus proposal for his removal. We are still pursuing relief against the wide-ranging reprisal campaign to which he has been subjected since the Trump inauguration. This is part of a broader PEER effort to defend federal climate scientists and climate science during these dark days;
Open the Government – Shut the White House
This is the third Trump government shutdown, a fact weighing on the lives of thousands of affected employees and their families. To make matters worse, Trump just issued an order barring any pay increase for civilian workers in 2019.
Not surprisingly, federal employees are growing more disengaged and discouraged. Increasingly, conscientious public servants are forced to go outside the confines of their paralyzed agencies to do much good. That is where PEER comes in, to help these people better serve the public – and live to tell the tale.
Zinke’s Parting Gift
On Friday despite the shutdown, the Interior Department issued proposed regulations making it harder and slower to get public records under FOIA. Like many of Zinke’s initiatives, this short-sighted move is doomed to failure and will only generate more FOIA litigation, not less. If Interior really wanted to reduce the number of FOIA requests, appeals, and suits, it should try something novel – transparency.
End of Year Giving
We’ve done a lot of good work, had a lot of wins, but there is so much left to do to combat this administration’s war on science, the environment and the people who serve it. Consider donating to PEER to help us plow forward!