For many of us, 2021 was a year of constant adjustment – from the vicissitudes of the pandemic to the maliciousness of our country’s political landscape. Amid these challenges, we are heartened that the Biden administration has brought a much-needed focus on climate change, conservation, and good governance, but concerned about the continued need for many government workers to defend their work from entrenched bureaucracies and industry’s overreach.
In this extraordinary year, PEER is proud to have stepped up our work with supporters to protect public employees and our environment. While we can’t talk about many of our accomplishments due to legal privilege, here are ten things that PEER did that we can talk about. In the past year, we –
- Exposed widespread removal of vital hazard data from EPA’s new and existing chemical assessments. These revelations, in turn, sparked a wide-ranging Inspector General investigation into insidious industry influence over the agency’s chemical assessment process. PEER’s efforts are aimed at reforming vital a new program to protect millions from toxic exposures that has gone badly awry.
- Opened a drive for “Plastic-Free” national parks by banning disposable plastic water bottles and putting parks on a plastic-reduction diet. Besides helping to “green” national parks, we made progress on our efforts to limit noisy, disruptive tourist overflights and curb conflicts with motorized electric bikes on park trails.
- Documented the enormous national footprint now occupied by unregulated toxic PFAS. We also showed the presence of PFAS in aerially-sprayed pesticides used across millions of acres and how the presence of PFAS in insecticides used for pet collars harms dogs and cats.
- Acted to curb destructive public range livestock practices by creating a database using official records documenting that, due to overgrazing, 40% of all BLM grazing allotments fail minimum landscape health standards for quality of water, soil, and vegetation. This effort illustrates why overgrazed lands cannot be considered conserved for purposes of the Biden 30×30 initiative. The database, to be launched in early January 2022, also offers BLM tools to bring its rangeland management into the 21st Century.
- Led a national campaign to rid firefighter turnout gear of toxic PFAS chemicals. PFAS are associated with damage to the liver and kidneys, as well as heightened risk of testicular and kidney cancer, leading causes of firefighter mortality.
- Helped stop a Trump move to allow the use of radioactive phosphor-gypsum to build highways. This dangerous scheme was a big giveaway to the fertilizer industry over the objections of EPA’s staff experts.
- Completed our successful drive to completely rid Malibu public schools of toxic PCBs. Our lawsuit on behalf of teachers, students, and parents was a significant factor behind the passage of a bond issue to replace old contaminated facilities.
- Pushed back on Western states conducting a war on wolves and other predator populations. We also exposed illegal efforts to block voter-approved wolf reintroduction in Colorado.
- Aided the staff of Colorado’s air pollution agency in blowing the lid off of shoddy and illegal practices that make the Denver metro area an ozone non-attainment nightmare.
- Blew the whistle on the failure to test for deadly radon gas in thousands of public housing units across the country, contrary to the Department of Housing & Urban Development’s own policies.
In addition to these achievements, we continued to render direct assistance to scores of confidential whistleblowers and internal activists and used Freedom of Information Act litigation as part of a wide-ranging transparency program, guided by insider sources.
During the new year, we will continue to work to improve our quality of life, protect our natural heritage and climate for future generations, and support public servants throughout the country.
Thank you for your work and your continued support of PEER, and best wishes for a happy new year.