For Immediate Release: Jan 04, 2018
Contact: Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337
PEER Celebrates Its 25th Anniversary
Weekly Series of Videos Chronicles Public Servants Surmounting Ethical Challenges
Washington, DC — This year marks the 25th anniversary of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), a unique service organization whose mission is to aid eco-specialists in better protecting the planet and doing their jobs. The group is celebrating this milestone by posting weekly videos throughout 2018 featuring “Eco-Champions” who are past PEER clients, activists, and leaders.
“Most of PEER’s work takes place outside the Beltway, so a D.C. cocktail party would not be a fitting way to commemorate our legacy,” stated Jeff Ruch, Executive Director of PEER since 1997. “Instead, we will mark this occasion with a year-long cyber-celebration to which everyone is invited.”
The inaugural video is from Dr. Donald Sweeney, a now-retired senior economist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. With PEER’s help, Dr. Sweeney exposed the Corps “cooking the books” to justify multi-billion dollar navigation projects. Backed by a phonebook of incriminating emails, his disclosures about skewed cost-benefit studies favoring expansion of locks and dams on the Mississippi were front-page news through much of 2000 and resulted, among other things, in –
- Legislation enacting “Corps reform” to ensure its cost-benefit studies were independently verified;
- Congress withholding approval for any new Corps navigation projects for six years; and
- Disciplinary action taken against two generals and a full colonel, resulting in their resignations.
“Don Sweeny’s revelations hit the Corps with the force of a thermonuclear device and forever changed the way major infrastructure projects are evaluated in this country,” commented Ruch. “In addition, this is a textbook case for how public accountability mechanisms are supposed to work.”
Besides the interesting stories from PEER’s past, the groups intends these videos to serve as –
- Educational guides and cautionary tales for the current set of public servants facing similar, if not greater, challenges;
- Illustrations of how impacts of accountability actions are measured over the passage of years; and
- Examples of people who have successfully taken on powerful interests and lived to tell the tale.
“While this is a moment to look back, our focus must be on the future–and the unprecedented pressures now confronting our public service, especially at the federal level” concluded Ruch. “Simply put, in these times of Trump, the work of PEER has never been more needed and our role never more vital.”