Winter 2007 PEEReview - Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility

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Winter 2007 PEEReview - Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility Powered By Docstoc
A Publication of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility
                       The Great Land Robbery
                              ormer Interior Secretary Gale Norton has                panding royalty-free sweetheart deals to oil
  Winter                      gone to work for Shell Oil Company to help
                              this multi-national corporation extract huge
                                                                                      companies for off-shore Gulf of Mexico oil.
                                                                                      This loss could quadruple to $28 billion if in-
   2007                quantities of oil shale by churning up the landscape           dustry lawsuits against Interior are successful.
                       of western Colorado.                                                                   Yet, as oil skyrocketed
                       Meanwhile, her former                                                                  above $50-a-barrel and
                       chief deputy, Steven                                                                   even the oil companies
                       Griles, awaits indict-                                                                 agreed that no more in-
                       ment for influence ped-                                                                centives were needed to
  See the
                       dling and perjury.                                                                     stimulate exploration,
 Centerfold                                                                                                   Interior increased what
                       The true toll of Norton’s
   New Year                                                                                                   the companies could
                       stormy five-year tenure
   deals on            is only now becoming
                                                                                                              take without paying
  PEER stuff                                                                                                  taxpayers;
                       clear. The domain of the
                       Interior Department is                                                                        • Horrendously one-
                       larger than many coun-                                                                        sided land exchanges
                       tries, containing more                                                                        to the disadvantage of
                       than one in every five                                                                        the public and to the
                       acres of American soil,                                                                       advantage of adminis-
                       spanning      picturesque                                                                     tration supporters. One
                       parks to remote refuges                                                                       example was the $120
                       to rolling rangelands.                                                                        million that Norton’s
                                                     Drilling the Taxpayer. The Bush administration is trying to     Interior promised to
                         By almost any measure, deflect responsibility for the multi-billion dollar royalty rip-off.
                                                                                                                     pay the Collier family
                         this vast national estate
                                                                                                                     (prominent supporters
                         is much worse off. As more scandals ooze to the sur-
                                                                                         of both Bush brothers) for its oil and gas hold-
                         face, Norton may end up going down as the worst
                                                                                         ings in the Big Cypress National Preserve – an
                         Interior Secretary since the Teapot Dome scandal
                                                                                         amount more than twelve times their assessed
                         in the 1920’s, where federal oil interests were also
                                                                                         value; and
                                           handed to political cronies with-
                                           out competitive bidding for ques-             • The mammoth and mushrooming tribal trust
                                           tionable favors.                              fund dispute, whose resolution Norton repeat-
                                                                                         edly cited as her top priority, only worsened.
                                           A partial list of the massive give-
                                           aways and under-the-table deals           Viewed against this backdrop, the Jack Abramoff
                                           that Norton and Griles presided           scandals are not an anomaly – they are just a sign of
                                           over includes:                            what the Interior Inspector General dubbed “busi-
Necklace of Oil Production. Gulf                                                     ness as usual.”
exploration is booming as oil prices hit   • The loss of more than $7
                                           billion to the Treasury by ex-                                                continued on page 12
all-time highs.

                                     u    Scores of Refuges Left without Staff in “Preservation Status,” page 7

  INSIDE                             u
                                          EPA Scientists Demand Action on Global Warming, page 8
                                          BuRec Wants to Fire Biologist for E-mailing Environmentalists, page 9
 From the Executive Director

Now the Hard Work Begins
Now that the Democrats have retaken both houses of                            can Congress conduct oversight on what it does not
Congress, the real work begins. Despite talk of biparti-                      see?
san cooperation, here is how White House press secre-
                                                                              Congress is not an ideal investigative agency. Rather,
tary Tony Snow describes President Bush’s determina-
                                                                              Congress is supposed to be an instrument of account-
tion to bypass Congress:
                                                                              ability, once the information has already been un-
“He’s going to be aggressive on a lot of fronts. He’s                         earthed. In order to be effective, Congress will need
been calling all his Cabinet secretaries and telling them,                    cogent and courageous expert witnesses from inside.
‘You tell me administratively everything you can do
                                                                              Now, more than ever, federal employees need access to
between now and the end of the presidency. I want to
                                                                              the lawyers and researchers at PEER – the vehicle by
see your to-do list and how you expect to do it.’ We’re
                                                                              which civil servants can safely speak truth to power.
going to try to be as ambitious and bold as we can pos-
                                                                              PEER provides free legal representation and expert
sibly be.”
                                                                              guidance for employees who will be asked to testify
So much for cooperation. With the new Democratic                              before Congress. It is critical for these witnesses to
Congress, the Bush agenda will be implemented more                            have legal support not only for the hearing but, even
than ever through re-interpretations of rules, stealth                        more importantly, afterwards, once the stage lights
budget shifts and secret, internal directives.                                have dimmed, to help deflect the inevitable retaliation.
During the past six years in Congress, oversight has                          We expect to be very busy in 2007. Come, help us.
meant to overlook. That is about to change. But how
                                                                                                                                — Jeff Ruch
                                                                     Mission Statement
PEER protects public employees who protect our environment. We are a service organization for local, state, fed-
eral and tribal law enforcement officers, scientists, land managers and other professionals dedicated to upholding
environmental laws and values. Through PEER, public servants can choose to work as “anonymous activists” so
that public agencies must confront the message, rather than the messenger.

                                                                                                      PEER Staff
   PEER Refuge Keeper • P.O. Box 359 Aurora, NY 13026
     tel: 315-364-7495 fax: 315-364-7810 email:                          Executive Director • Jeff Ruch
   California PEER • PO Box 4057, Georgetown, CA 95634                                      Associate Director • Carol Goldberg
     tel: 530-333-2545 fax 530-333-1113                                                  Legal • Richard Condit & Paula Dinerstein
   Florida PEER • P.O. Box 14463 Tallahassee, FL 32317-4463                                   Development • Leone Bollinger
     tel: 850-877-8097 fax: 850-942-5264                                                       Membership • Carrie Hibbard
   Maine PEER • P.O. Box 365 Millinockett, ME 04462                                               Research • Dick Kasdan
     tel & fax: 207-723-4656 email:
                                                                                            PEEReview Layout • Dana Serovy
   New England PEER • P.O. Box 574 North Easton, MA 02356
     tel: 508-230-9933 fax: 508-230-2110 email:
   New Jersey PEER • P.O. Box 1 Ringoes, NJ 08551
                                                                                                      PEER Board
     tel & fax: 609-397-8213 email:                                     Chair • Howard Wilshire (USGS, retired)
   Rocky Mountain PEER • P.O. Box 280396 Lakewood, CO 80228                           Member • Magi Shapiro (Army Corps, retired)
     tel: 303-316-0809 fax: 303-322-4689 email:                         Member • Louis Clark (G.A.P. President)
   Tennessee PEER • 4443 Pecan Valley Road Nashville, TN 37218
                                                                                   Member • Frank Buono (National Park Service, retired)
     tel: 615-313-7066 email:
   Texas PEER • P.O. Box 1522 Austin, TX 78767
                                                                                          PEEReview is the quarterly newslettter of
     tel: 512-441-4941 email:
                                                                                    Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility
   Washington PEER • P.O. Box 2618 Olympia, WA 98507
     tel: 360-528-2110 email:
                                                                                   2000 P Street, NW • Suite 240 • Washington, D.C. 20036
   Alaska Forum for Environmental Responsibility                                            tel: 202-265-7337 • fax: 202-265-4192
     P.O. Box 188 Valdez, AK 99686 tel: 907-835-5460 fax: 907-835-5410               email: • website:

                                                                            National Park Service
Rescuing “Orphaned” Park Wilderness
        he National Park Service has a love-hate relationship
        with wilderness. NPS administers more wilderness than
        any other federal land-managing agency. The 44 million
acres of designated park wilderness comprise more than half
of all the lands within the national park system and more than
40% of all federal wilderness lands.
Despite this superlative profile, the Park Service has turned
its back on its wilderness. The agency has failed to for-
ward wilderness recommendations to the President, conduct
legally-mandated assessments, prepare management plans or
take a myriad of other steps necessary to protection wilderness
PEER is launching a three-prong campaign designed to –
1. Resuscitate Abandoned Wilderness Designations. The
process of securing statutory protection for enduring park        Olympic Vistas. National park wilderness contains some of the most
                                                                  magnificent wild land in our nation or, for that matter, the world.
wilderness resources has stopped dead in its tracks. All told,
pending or stalled wilderness proposals would increase              • “Cultural” Burning in Wilderness: Olympic is now is
park wilderness land by more than half, putting at least an         moving forward with “cultural” burning within designated
additional 26 million acres under wilderness protection.            wilderness for the purpose of maintaining specific scenes
                                                                    within the park.
PEER is seeking to reverse all these abdications of wilderness
stewardship by urging the new Congress to enact the outstand-     3. Get the Big Picture. At present NPS devotes only two peo-
ing wilderness recommendations for lands in 18 parks made         ple full time to managing the national wilderness program. This
by several past administrations and pressuring NPS to transmit    is the least of any federal agency, even though NPS adminis-
its withheld internal recommendations to the Secretary and to     ters more wilderness acres than any other agency. In the 1970s,
Congress for another 21.3 million acres.                          NPS had an entire office devoted to wilderness. Consequently,
                                                                  NPS lacks a comprehensive overview of its wilderness needs.
2. Protect Existing Wilderness. Guided by employees on the
                                                                  In its place, inertia and internal obstruction now constitute the
scene, PEER is stepping up our interventions to halt wilder-
                                                                  agency wilderness posture.
ness violations committed or condoned by NPS managers. A
prime example is Olympic National Park, which contains the        There is new leadership in Congress and at both NPS and its
largest expanse of wilderness of any park in America outside      parent agency, the Interior Department, whom we hope to in-
of Alaska, featuring the most magnificent temperate rainforest    duce to go beyond the bare legal necessities. Follow the prog-
in the world, glacier-capped mountains and wild, undeveloped      ress of this effort in our new web campaign center.
beaches. Currently, 95% of the park is designated wilderness
making it the largest wilderness park, but park managers ne-         Sunset for the Unnatural Resources Committee
glect and abuse this wilderness crown jewel.                       When the Republicans took over the House of Representatives
  • No Wilderness Management Plan: Nearly twenty years             in 1995, they changed the names of many committees and sub-
  after the designation of wilderness, NPS has not completed       committees, usually by adding ungainly strings of seemingly
  a wilderness management plan for the park yet they are           disconnected nouns (e.g., “Subcommittee on Intelligence, Infor-
  currently moving forward with many proposals that have           mation Sharing & Terrorist Risk Assessment”). One exception
  the potential to negatively impact wilderness.                   was Don Young (R-AK), who took over the Natural Resources
                                                                   Committee and shortened the name by striking the word “natu-
  • Illegal Structures in Wilderness: PEER had to sue to           ral.”
  stop the park superintendent from airlifting prefabricated
                                                                   Now the Democrats have returned and the new chair Nick Ra-
  buildings into wilderness in clear violation of the Wilder-
                                                                   hall (D-WV) has restored the original Natural Resources moni-
  ness Act prohibition on use of mechanized equipment and
                                                                   ker to the committee, hopefully ending more than a decade of
  construction {see PEEReview, Summer ‘06}. Despite los-
                                                                   alienation from nature.
  ing in court, the park is hatching new development plans.

Winter 2007                                                                                                              
Romney’s Legacy of Toxic Sludge
       or the past eight years, the Mas-       cals) reaches public water bodies.              “Governor Romney is guilty of a jaw-
       sachusetts Department of Envi-                                                          dropping abdication of his public health
       ronmental Protection (DEP) has          Under threat of a lawsuit by a coalition
                                               of groups led by PEER, the outgoing ad-         responsibilities,” stated New England
allowed hundreds of industries to dis-                                                         PEER Director Kyla Bennett, noting that
charge tons of toxic chemicals into mu-        ministration of Governor Mitt Romney
                                               issued a last-minute proposal to margin-        only 5% of Massachusetts waters meet
nicipal sewage plants without state per-                                                       minimal standards for fishing and swim-
mits, according to a PEER investigation.       ally strengthen oversight of industrial
                                               discharges. The Romney plan, however,           ming. “There is no excuse for this egre-
As a result, streams of harmful chemicals                                                      gious dereliction of duty.”
may be entering Boston Harbor and other        left the hard work to incoming Gov. De-
water bodies without any warning to con-       val Patrick to establish rules for industrial
sumers, fishermen or municipalities.           toxics reporting, subdivisions seeking to             Calling All Cops
                                               hook up to failing sewer systems and a            Massachusetts Environmental Police
Beginning in 1998, DEP has issued “for-        broken state enforcement program.                 say they cannot do their jobs due to
bearance letters” to at least 278 industrial                                                     political interference, poor leadership
wastewater dischargers. These forbear-                                                           and inadequate support, according to
ance letters “temporarily” waive all per-                                                        a PEER survey. Massachusetts Envi-
mit limits, monitoring requirements, and                                                         ronmental Police (MEP) officers are
holding tank approvals, as well as all fees.                                                     tasked with enforcing environmental
These waivers remain in effect today.                                                            health and public safety laws, rang-
                                                                                                 ing from hazardous waste disposal to
Based upon records PEER obtained, the                                                            illegal fishing and boat safety.
state waived regulation over 1.4 million                                                           • Nearly four out of five disagree
gallons of wastewater entering munici-                                                             that “environmental enforcement
pal sewage systems every day. Although                                                             in Massachusetts has become
some municipal plants monitor industrial                                                           stronger in the past four years”;
dischargers carefully, others do not. Due
                                                                                                   • One in five officers report that
to a lack of state tracking, it is unknown                                                         managers “inappropriately inter-
how much of the chemical mix (every-                                                               vened in a criminal investigation”
thing from radioactive elements, such as       Wastewater Treatment Plant. Many industrial
                                                                                                   during the past two years and
                                               wastewater plants lack the ability to prevent
radium, to heavy metals, as well as an ar-     harmful chemicals from reaching surface             more than one-third of respon-
ray of acids, acetones and other chemi-        waters.                                             dents “fear retaliation from my
                                                                                                   chain of command for advocating
    OCD — Obsessive Construction Disorder                                                          environmental enforcement”; and
                                                                                                   • More than half do not see
  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency presented one of its five 2006 Na-
                                                                                                   management as “committed to
  tional Awards for Smart Growth Achievement to Massachusetts “for creating the
                                                                                                   enforcement of environmental
  Office of Commonwealth Development (OCD)” in 2003. The EPA award observes
  that OCD has “protected approximately 35,000 acres of land.”
                                                                                                 “The problems in the Massachusetts
  While that number is accurate, it is substantially less than the land protected
                                                                                                 Environmental Police run deep and
  before OCD was created. According to figures compiled by PEER, under Gover-
                                                                                                 require a complete overhaul,” stated
  nor Mitt Romney Massachusetts protected fewer acres at greater cost than under
                                                                                                 New England PEER Director Kyla
  his predecessors. During Romney’s tenure, land protection took a nose dive,
                                                                                                 Bennett, who conducted the poll. A
  falling from more than 33,000 acres protected in 2001 to less than 6,900 acres in
                                                                                                 similar survey of MEP officers that
  2006 — a lower total than any year since 1991.
                                                                                                 PEER conducted five years ago pro-
  “With its own record of being missing in action on important land use issues,                  duced less negative results in key
  EPA giving an award to Massachusetts for smart growth achievement is like a                    areas. “Hopefully, the next adminis-
  deserter passing out medals for heroism,” stated New England PEER Direc-                       tration will choose better managers,
  tor Kyla Bennett, a former EPA lawyer and biologist, noting that, on average,                  remove barriers and provide ade-
  40 acres of undeveloped land are lost per day in the Commonwealth. “By any                     quate resources so that environmen-
  measure, Massachusetts is losing the war on sprawl by widening margins; under                  tal law enforcement in the Common-
  Romney, the cause of smart growth lost significant IQ points.”                                 wealth stops being such a joke.”

Manatee Recovery in Doubt
         espite record death levels and              of the most serious long-term threats
         growing threats, the Florida Fish           to manatees in Florida.”

                                                                                                                                          (Photo courtesy of Donna Clements,
         and Wildlife Conservation Com-
                                                     • Red Tides and Harmful Algal

                                                                                                                                          Marine Animal Rescue Society)
mission is downgrading the protected sta-
                                                     Blooms: “Red tide represents a ma-
tus of the Florida manatee. Although it is
                                                     jor natural source of mortality for
projecting a 30 to 50% decline in mana-
                                                     manatees in the southwestern region
tee population over the next 60 years,
                                                     that is beyond the control of manag-
the new state “recovery” plan lays out
no concrete steps to combat what it con-
cedes are growing threats, including—             PEER is protesting the action and push-
                                                  ing the agency to adopt a recovery plan      Increasingly and Distressingly Common.
  • More Propeller Deaths and                                                                  Propeller wounds are the single biggest cause
                                                  that actually takes concrete steps to help
  Maiming: “In addition to the ex-                                                             of manatee mortality.
                                                  revive struggling manatee populations.
  pected increase in boat numbers,
                                                                                                 • Undermines enforcement by urg-
  there are other factors that may act            “Our current strategy in Iraq has a bet-       ing warnings to violators rather than
  synergistically to increase the risk            ter chance of succeeding than this mana-       fines, even in egregious cases; and
  of fatal collisions between manatees            tee plan,” stated Florida PEER Director
  and watercraft.”                                Jerry Phillips, a former enforcement at-       • Weakens harassment protections by
                                                  torney with the state Department of En-        advocating that marine patrol must
  • Worsening Habitat Destruction:
                                                  vironmental Protection.                        show that the harm caused to the ani-
  Losses “of warm-water refuges over
                                                                                                 mal was intentional or the result of
  the next several decades present one            The FWC plan fails to offer any coherent       negligence.
                                                                strategy or specific steps
                                                                (apart from additional         The plan proposes a goal of 2,500 mana-
                                                                research) to prevent the       tees but does not explain why this level
                                                                manatee        populations     provides a safety net for long-term sur-
                                                                from suffering continu-        vival. In addition, FWC admits that it
                                                                ing losses. The plan –         needs far more reliable means of moni-
                                                                                               toring population changes, so that quick
                                                                   • Eschews any tighter       intervention is even possible.
                                                                   speed limits, despite
                                                                   the current chaotic         “The Fish and Wildlife Commission
                                                                   county-by-county            should consider changing its name to the
                                                                   speed policies that         Boating and Marina Board,” added Phil-
Losses Mounting. Florida registered record manatee death levels
                                                                   hinder consistent pro-      lips. “The state should be ashamed of it-
in 2006.                                                           tections;                   self for putting this monstrosity forward.”

When In a Hole, Corps Keeps Digging
The latest plan by the U.S. Army Corps            velopers to fill up to 300 feet of peren-    did the most to help create the problem,”
of Engineers would make it much easier            nial streams. In addition, it permits new    stated PEER’s Kyla Bennett, a biologist
to destroy wetlands in the areas hardest          structures in the 100-year floodplain.       and lawyer formerly with the wetland
hit by Hurricane Katrina. Developers                                                           program of the U.S. Environmental Pro-
could destroy up to five acres of wetland         The thrust of the Corps’ plan is precisely
                                                                                               tection Agency. “The last thing the Mis-
per project (a ten-fold increase) with no         contrary to the recommendations of an
                                                                                               sissippi Coast needs is sprawling, flood-
public input, thus reducing flood stor-           array of expert panels, as well as its own
                                                                                               vulnerable development.”
age capacity, drinking water quality and          policies and a presidential order forbid-
aquatic ecosystems.                               ding new development in floodplains.         PEER is teaming up with groups such as
                                                                                               the Gulf Restoration Network to fight the
The plan also eliminates any protection           “This is a wrong-headed solution offered
                                                                                               Corps plan.
for ephemeral streams and allows de-              by the very organization, the Corps, that

Winter 2007                                                                                                                  
 U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
National Bison Range Experiment Ended
         f late, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has not been     In its termination letter, the Service found, among other lapses,
         known for casting profiles in courage. So it was a sur-   that CSKT—
         prise when, in mid-December, the agency issued a no-
                                                                       • “Failed to comply with Service bison management stan-
tice of immediate termination to the Confederated Salish and
                                                                       dards, including herding bison while cows were giving
Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) ending the tribes’ role in the troubled         birth during the calving season [and] feeding insufficient
two-year joint operation of the National Bison Range Wildlife          quantities of hay to bison being held for transport;”
Refuge in Montana.
                                                                       • Left incomplete biological surveys and reports and ig-
The action abruptly ended a controversial agreement under              nored monitoring standards “including altering survey
which CSKT was awarded approximately half the positions and            protocols;” and
funding for the National Bison Range and nearby Ninepipe and
                                                                       • Did not maintain “fences to standard, resulting in a
Pablo National Wildlife Refuges. It was surprising because the
                                                                       serious loss of grazing management control, damage to
CSKT had made political contributions and connections such
                                                                                           interior fences and the conditioning
that the Bush administration blithely
                                                                                           of bison to find and utilize weak loca-
brushed aside the vehement objections
                                                                                           tions for escape.”
of more than 120 national wildlife ref-
uge managers and 40 conservation or-                                                       These problems had been known for
ganizations, including PEER, that the                                                      months but the Service was under or-
arrangement was unworkable. (See                                                           ders to work things out. Despite its poor
PEEReview Winter ’05 for a profile of                                                      performance, CSKT not only demanded
that PEER campaign.)                                                                       more funds but also total management
                                                                                           control over National Bison Range plus
In late 2004, after closed door negotia-                                                   the Swan River and Lost Trail National
tions, the deal was imposed on the ref-                                                    Wildlife Refuges and five waterfowl
uge by Paul Hoffman, a former Dick Caught in the Middle. Contracting out refuge            production areas near Kalispell. With its
Cheney aide who was then a top official operations to a tribe was deemed a failure.        political connections, CSKT nearly suc-
at the Department of Interior (DOI), the                                                   ceeded with its gambit.
parent agency for the Fish & Wildlife Service and its refuge
                                                                    “In the private sector, this contract would have been cancelled a
system. While Hoffman did not particularly care about the
                                                                    year ago for non-performance but in the world of politics, per-
welfare of Native Americans or tribal self-determination, the
                                                                    formance does not matter— doing a poor job can justify asking
deal furthered the Bush administration agenda of contracting
                                                                    to take over the whole business,” stated PEER Refuge Keeper
out refuges and national parks.
                                                                    Grady Hocutt, a long-time former refuge manager who directed
The basic problem with the arrangements was that, to para- our drive to end the Bison Range agreement. “Contracting out
phrase Lincoln, a refuge divided cannot stand. Despite a thou- operation of a refuge or park to an outside entity, be it a tribe
sand-page protocol that covered virtually every aspect of the or a multinational corporation like Halliburton, dilutes the ac-
split operation, it lacked any mechanism to make sure that the countability for public resource management.”
agreed-upon work was actually done.                                 This is not just a local controversy in that the Bison Range
                                                                    deal could have become the model for 34 national parks and
                                                                    31 wildlife refuges that are eligible for similar deals under the
  Violence Closes Border Refuge                                     Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act. Not-
   While national parks and refuges have been closed due to         withstanding the precedental impact of its actions, Interior has
   weather conditions or the need to isolate sensitive wildlife,    refused to adopt a national policy governing these agreements,
   the first closure due to crime was recorded at the Buenos        as PEER has urged.
   Aires Refuge on the Arizona border. Citing heavy human           By late December, CSKT had pressured Interior to reopen
   and narcotics trafficking, the southern strip of the refuge      negotiations, meaning the controversy will continue. “CSKT
   will remain closed to the public indefinitely. As refuge         should play a role in the National Bison Range but there are
   manager Mitch Ellis explained, “You’ve got well-armed            other means which could allow the tribes to participate without
   bad guys as well as well-armed good guys, and we don’t           sacrificing effective and cohesive refuge management,” Hocutt
   want the public down there in the middle of all that.”           added. “Refuges are supposed to be run to benefit wildlife, not
                                                                    promote politics.”

                                                                        U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Refuges Retreat to “Preservation Status”
       he Bush administration has ordered an across-the-board              sanctuaries into the envy of the world but much of that work is
       cutback in funding for the National Wildlife Refuge                 being undone in just this decade.”
       System, leaving scores of refuges
                                                                                                   Established by President Theodore Roos-
without any assigned staff. Under the
                                                                                                   evelt, the National Wildlife Refuge Sys-
Bush plan, the Refuge System, a part of
                                                                                                   tem now covers 96 million acres (an area
the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS),
                                                                                                   bigger than the State of Montana) and
will see declining budgets through 2011
                                                                                                   encompasses 545 individual refuges and
despite significant increases in the number
                                                                                                   37 wetlands management areas. Apart
of refuges, visitors and operating costs.
                                                                                                   from providing critical wildlife habitat,
Each of the seven FWS regional offices                                                             national refuges are a major recreational
across the country is now formulating                                                              outlet, with an estimated 40 million visi-
plans to absorb the cuts. The Southeast                                                            tors each year, including hunters and an-
Region, with the largest number of ref-                                                            glers. There is at least one refuge located
uges (128), will eliminate approximately                                                           within an hour’s drive of every major city
80 staff positions, leaving more than one-                                                         in the U.S.
third (43) of its refuges with no staff at all
                                                                                                   The Bush administration is proposing a
– a condition the agency calls “Preserva-
                                                                                                   slight decrease in the $380 million refuge
tion Status.” More than half of the ref-
                                                                                                   budget. Given rising costs and more ref-
uges in the region will be left with fewer
                                                                                                   uge units (17 new refuges have been es-
than three staff positions.
                                                                                                   tablished since 2001), this posture of flat-
“Make no mistake about it – this is the first                                                      lining the budget amounts to a significant
stage in dismantling the National Wildlife                                                         resource reduction in real terms. When
Refuge System,” stated Grady Hocutt, a                                                             the refuge system’s $3.1 billion opera-
                                                 Mothballing Nation’s First Refuge.
former long-time refuge manager who di-          Established a century ago by President Teddy      tions and maintenance backlog is added
rects the PEER refuge program. “It took          Roosevelt, Pelican Island has had its staff cut   to the picture, the outlook for the refuges
a century to build this network of wildlife      from six to two positions.                        becomes even bleaker.

                    Survey: Refuges Headed in Wrong Direction
   The National Wildlife Refuge System is headed in the wrong              protection decisions with more than one in five report being
   direction, according to a new survey of refuge managers                 “pressured to approve activities that I believed were incom-
   conducted by PEER. Nearly four out of five managers feel                patible with the purposes of my refuge.”
   the National Wildlife Refuge System is not “moving in the
                                                                           Perhaps most striking were growing frustrations with weak
   right direction.” More than two in three are not “optimistic
                                                                           leadership and crippling micro-management. More than
   about the future” of the refuge system.
                                                                           three in four estimate that they are able to spend less than
   Lack of resources is one big concern. Nearly two in three               half of their time doing “conservation work, as opposed
   conclude that the refuge system is not “currently accom-                to purely administrative tasks.” Red tape has “become in-
   plishing its missions.” An even higher percentage estimates             creasingly cumbersome,” according to an overwhelming
   that staffing levels for their refuges fall below “core require-        percentage (96%).
   ments” by more than 25%.                                                A strong majority lacks “confidence in the current leader-
   Safety and wildlife protection are two casualties. More than            ship of the Fish & Wildlife Service;” not a single manager
   two out of three say anti-poaching and other resource law               registers strong confidence in agency leadership. Perhaps
   enforcement is suffering while a slightly smaller percentage            as a consequence, nearly half the managers think that the
   register similar concerns about visitor safety.                         Refuge System should be removed from the Fish & Wild-
                                                                           life Service and made into a separate agency. Full survey
   Nearly half perceive the injection of politics into wildlife            results can be seen on the PEER website.

Winter 2007                                                                                                                    7
 Environmental Protection Agency

EPA Scientists Demand Global Warming Response
    n an unprecedented action, repre-                Addressed to the members of the Senate         • “EPA’s scientists and engineers
    sentatives for more than 10,000 U.S.             and House committees overseeing EPA,           [must be able] to speak frankly and
    Environmental Protection Agency                  the petition states:                           directly with Congress and the pub-
scientists are urging Congress to take                                                              lic regarding climate change, without
                                                        • The Bush administration strategy
immediate action against global warm-                                                               fear of reprisal.”
                                                        of “using primarily voluntary and
ing, in a petition organized by PEER in
                                                        incentive-based programs” to reduce       “Professionals working for the Environ-
conjunction with a coalition of public
                                                        greenhouse gases is not working nor       mental Protection Agency are protest-
employee unions. The petition also calls
                                                        “has [this approach] been effectively     ing being directed to sit on the sidelines
for an end to censorship of scientists and
                                                        carried out;”                             while we face the greatest environmen-
other specialists on topics of climate
change and the effects of air pollution.                • EPA has abdicated its responsibili-     tal challenge of our generation,” stated
                                                        ties by “failing to investigate coal-     PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, not-
The petition signatories represent more                 electric plants for technical options     ing that the petition began at a grassroots
than half of the total agency workforce.                to control carbon;” and                   level among agency staff and was signed
                                                                                                  by presidents of 22 locals of five unions.
EPA Says Law Has Expiration Date
The U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency is seeking to insulate itself from
                                                     agency had made a secret decision to
                                                     abandon the rules altogether. PEER then
                                                                                                   Blowing Smoke
statutory requirements that it implement             filed suit against EPA.                       President Bush often defends his pol-
lead-safe housing rules that were due by                                                           lution-related policies by pointing out
                                                     “The implications of EPA’s latest position    that Stephen Johnson, “a career sci-
law a decade ago. In a recent court filing,
                                                     are just appalling – the agency can run       entist,” heads the U.S. Environmen-
EPA contends that once six years have
                                                     out the clock by assuring everyone that it    tal Protection Agency. Johnson may
elapsed it is no longer compelled to com-                                                          have spent a career at EPA but he
                                                     is working on compliance and then sud-
ply with the law. EPA struck this novel                                                            has not functioned as a scientist for
                                                     denly say it is immune from suit,” stated
legal posture in a motion to dismiss a                                                             quite a spell. Consider this statement
                                                     PEER Senior Counsel Paula Dinerstein.
lawsuit brought by PEER and a coalition                                                            by Johnson in a September 14, 2006
                                                     “Congress does not write laws in ink that
of public health and community organi-                                                             news release entitled “Eastern Skies
                                                     evaporates after six years.”
zations.                                                                                           Continue Getting Cleaner”:
                                                     The law at issue requires all remodeling      “EPA’s success in reducing air pollu-
By law, EPA was supposed to have adopt-
                                                     in buildings constructed before 1978 be       tion from power plants and manufac-
ed lead-safe regulations for repairs and
                                                     performed by certified contractors and        turing facilities proves we are not blow-
renovations in older housing by 1996. Up
                                                     workers trained in lead-safe practices.       ing smoke. Long term trends show
until 2005, EPA claimed that, while tardy,
                                                     Each year, approximately 7 million home       that our nation’s air is cleaner than
it was still working to develop rules. That                                                        over a generation ago, and continues
                                                     renovations produce hazardous quanti-
year, however, PEER discovered the EPA                                                             to improve under the Bush Adminis-
                                                     ties of lead dust exposing tens of thou-
public statements were false and that the                                                          tration’s innovative clean air policies.
                                                     sands of American children who suffer
                                                                                                   By keeping pace in our steady march
                                                                 irreversible damage, such as
                                                                                                   toward cleaner air and healthier lives,
                                                                 lost IQ points and develop-       America is breathing easier because
                                                                 mental disabilities.              of President Bush’s commitment to
                                                                                                   improving our air quality.”
                                                                  Under pressure from Sena-
                                                                  tor Barack Obama and other       EPA admits it lacks evidence that
                                                                  Democrats, in 2006 EPA fi-       Bush policies played any role in pollu-
                                                                  nally proposed a rule but it     tion reductions, as Johnson claimed.
                                                                  does not cover day-care cen-     As a political appointee, he is appar-
                                                                  ters, housing occupied by        ently free to engage in such puffery.
                                                                                                   By contrast, EPA’s real scientists are
                                                                  pregnant women or children
                                                                                                   forbidden from providing factual infor-
Preventable Tragedy. Improper repair work in older housing is     over age 6, or vacant build-
a principal pathway for lead exposure. In Chicago, for example,                                    mation to reporters unless cleared by
one in five children under age 5 has dangerously elevated
                                                                  ings that could later house      the press office.
blood-lead levels.                                                families with young children.

           8                                                                                                           PEEReview
                                                                            Bureau of Reclamation
Biologist Faces Axe for E-mailing Environmentalists
       he U.S. Bureau of Reclama-             addition to his contact with environmen-
       tion has proposed to fire a biolo-     talists, Wahl is also charged with reveal-
       gist after finding candid e-mails      ing “administratively controlled informa-
he had sent to environmentalists and to       tion” to other federal agencies.
other agencies. In its letter of proposed
termination, the agency alleged the “sub-     “These charges are both insulting and
versive” activity of communicating with       illegal,” stated PEER Senior Counsel
“environmental organizations which are        Paula Dinerstein, who is leading Wahl’s
opposed to Reclamation generally and          legal challenge against any proposed dis-
adversarial in nature” justifies immediate    ciplinary action. “Public servants cannot    Rex and Cherie Wahl. In September,
removal.                                      be fired simply for telling inconvenient     Reclamation discovered the emails Rex Wahl
                                              truths.”                                     had sent months earlier as it cleared the hard
Charles (Rex) Wahl, a GS-12 Envi-                                                          drive of his computer. Since then, he has

ronmental Specialist, has been on paid        Wahl’s disclosures concern a slew of         been on paid administrative leave and she was
                                                                                           abruptly let go from a temporary job.
administrative leave for the past four        proposed Reclamation projects on the
months while the agency continues to          Lower Colorado River. He also revealed       problem is that it regards environmental-
ponder his fate. Shortly after Wahl was       that Reclamation had falsified material      ists as enemies. Contrary to its paranoid
notified of his proposed firing on Sep-       in a permit it submitted to the U.S. Army    posture, Reclamation is required to be
tember 18th, the Bureau of Reclamation        Corps of Engineers. In addition, Wahl        forthright about what it is doing.”
also dismissed his wife Cherie from a         suggested to a staff member of an envi-
                                              ronmental group that she obtain certain      Reclamation is under no deadlines to act
temporary clerk-typist position.                                                           on Wahl’s case. Facing a short statute of
                                              agency reports through the Freedom of
Ironically, Wahl’s main duty in Recla-        Information Act.                             limitations on filing complaints, how-
mation’s Yuma Area Office was to keep                                                      ever, PEER has initiated an investigation
stakeholders, including environmental-        “Federal employees are not required          into the matter by the U.S. Department
ists, abreast of agency “actions and ini-     to swear bureaucratic omertà – silence       of Labor under the whistleblower provi-
tiatives” as required under the National      to the detriment of the public interest,”    sions of the Clean Water Act, Clean Air
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). In           Dinerstein added. “Part of the Bureau’s      Act and Solid Waste Disposal Act.

Paying the Piper for Park Cell Towers
PEER is often critical of both political      The Organic Act of 1916 charges NPS          of a roadside location along a New Jersey
appointees in the Interior Department         with conserving, among other things,         commercial strip, Mr. Donahue perceived
and career National Park Service (NPS)        park scenery. Eight towers (even a single    the difference.
managers who make decisions that de-          tower), visible for miles, would certainly
grade our nation’s parks. So, it is fitting   impact that scenery. Therefore, Super-       The approach to cell towers in Delaware
to recognize officials when their conduct     intendent Donahue determined that the        Water Gap is in sharp contrast to the
protects the national park system. Such       towers would require a thorough review       cell tower right-of-way overlooking Old
conduct by Superintendent John Donahue        under the National Environmental Policy      Faithful in Yellowstone, for example,
of Delaware Water Gap National Recre-         Act. The NPS informed Verizon that the       where two-thirds of that park now has
ation Area deserves praise and gratitude.     company would need to pay for that pro-      cell coverage. The NPS also has issued a
                                              cess – an estimated $178,000.                right-of-way for a 185-foot tower in the
In 2004, ATT and Verizon Wireless filed                                                    heart of Mammoth Cave National Park.
eight applications to site cellular tele-     Verizon promptly withdrew its applica-
phone towers in Delaware Water Gap.           tion, claiming the cost was “significantly   PEER is campaigning for more parks to
The towers would be near the tops of          beyond what Verizon Wireless believes        follow the example of Superintendent
ridges, and rise anywhere from 100 to         is required.” The letter continued “the      Donahue, and we are pressing the NPS
150 feet with possible extensions to 199      costs…are beyond industry standards          to adopt system-wide plans and policies
feet where the tree canopy is higher.         within this region for such a review.”       so that park scenery, solitude and sound-
Thus, the towers would have been visible      While Verizon may view the parklands         scapes are not needlessly thrown away to
from much of the park.                        of Delaware Water Gap as the equivalent      service telecommunications corporations.

Winter 2007                                                                                                              9
 PEER Perspective
Withholding Judgment
This issue we temporarily suspend our judgment and allow readers to decide what digits (thumbs or
otherwise) the following items deserve.
Sort of Like the War on Drugs                                  Chuckle on Your Own Time
After twenty years of uniformly “can do” rhetoric, the In its never-ending campaign against computer porn and
U.S. is now conceding the war against exotic invasive online gambling, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has
species is un-winnable. Speaking at a recent DC confer- instituted a new “Internet filtering tool named Websense,”
ence, Agriculture Department Undersecretary Dave Tenny according to an agency memo. The new filter is so sensitive
admitted the fight against invasives, such as the Asian that it also blocks “access to comics such as Doonesbury, and
longhorned beetle and the ze-                                                            the word ‘humor’…a search for
bra mussel, is “not a battle we “Park directors that stand up and ‘humor in the workplace’ will
are going to win ultimately.”                                                            only reach a warning page that
Another USDA official stated          do the job won’t last too long.”                   humor is off-limits,” writes one
that we are losing at an acceler- --The late William J. Whalen, National Park PEER member. Websense may
ating rate, with more invasives                Service Director 1977-80                  be ill-named as it also filters out
entering the U.S. during the                                                             a variety of legitimate resource
past 15 years than in the previous 60, adding “Even if we issue-related sites. Paradoxically, agency employees can
had a blank check, it wouldn’t be enough.” Nonetheless, still access the PEER site despite our best efforts to get
the U.S. will continue to spend billions to combat exotic banned in Boston.
life forms. Hmmm…pouring money into an un-winnable Petroleum Kool-Aid Acid Test
conflict sounds familiar; maybe it is becoming the new
American way of warfare.                                     Though their economies are based on oil, Louisiana, Texas
                                                             and Oklahoma have never mapped the petroleum pipelines
Even the Snakes Have Ears.                                   within their borders. Nor are the federal maps of interstate
In a related item, Burmese pythons are proliferating through pipelines reliable. As these states hold some of the oldest
the Everglades, with hundreds of the big, wily predators pipelines, which are more prone to leak, this information
eating their way through the River of Grass. Last year, in gap is becoming a public safety concern. Fortunately, the
an incident worthy of the novelist Carl Hiaasen, a 13-foot U.S. Geological Survey is on the job and has assembled
python exploded after swallowing a six-foot gator. While teams armed with aerial photographs and permit records.
park officials captured nearly 150 of the big constrictors Louisiana is a particular challenge, with more than 15,000
last year, they concede they are only scratching the scaly miles of pipelines snaking through its swamps and bayous.
surface of a python population spike. Conventional trap- As there was no pipeline master-plan, the resulting maps
ping has not worked, so they are trying a new approach of are something to behold. As USGS Researcher John Snead
releasing snakes implanted with radio transmitters. “They said, “A map of pipelines in Louisiana looks like a web
sort of rat out their own kind,” said park biologist Skip made by spider on LSD.”
Snow, claiming that the technique is so successful that the    They Don’t Make ‘Em Like They Used To
initial troop of “Judas animals” has been hiked from four to   Two U.S. Forest Service researchers based in Ogden, Utah
seven. “Snakes have some kind of way to find each other,”      had to be evacuated by helicopter from the Sawtooth Na-
Snow adds. “If we can get a clue as to what that is, it will   tional Forest in Idaho after they became frightened by howl-
certainly help.” Maybe we could bottle it?                     ing wolves while conducting a forest inventory. Unaware
                                                               that the wolves were hunting elk, not PhDs, the researchers
Bush’s Secret Plan to Fight Global Warming                     climbed atop a rock outcropping and called their supervisor
UN climatologists are grappling with reports that a layer of   on their satellite phone asking to be airlifted out. “They were
pollution deliberately spewed into the atmosphere may help     very scared and wanted to get out,” said a forest spokesman.
cool the planet and check dangerous global warming. This       While Idaho has never recorded a wolf attack on humans,
form of “geoengineering” is now being seriously considered     “these employees were probably not aware of that fact,”
by U.S. policy-makers, according to published reports. One     he added. The forest is reviewing its use of helicopters
drawback, however, is the worldwide pollution blanket          in designated wilderness. Two days later, a Forest Service
could kill millions from pulmonary diseases in order to save   crew hiked in to retrieve the researchers’ abandoned gear
hundreds of thousands of global warming victims.               where it lay unmolested by wolves.

         10                                                                                              PEEReview
                                                   Environmental Protection Agency

EPA Closes Half Its Libraries

            ithout waiting for Congressional approval, the U.S.
            Environmental Protection Agency has shut down
            much of its network of libraries, ending public ac-
cess to research materials and boxing up unique collections. A
furious counter-campaign led by PEER on behalf of outraged
agency specialists has generated national news coverage, criti-
cal editorials and pledges by incoming committee chairs in both
houses of Congress to reverse the agency actions.
While initially citing fiscal motives, EPA abandoned that ra-
tionale and now claims that it wants to “modernize” its infor-
mation systems by digitizing thousands of documents page-by-
page. In the interim, whole collections will be inaccessible to
both agency specialists and outside researchers.
The agency’s inability to provide a rational explanation for the
closures has only fueled opposition. A mass petition by EPA
scientists claims the action is an “effort to suppress information    Closed for Business. Sign posted at Region 5 (Chicago) library indicates
on environmental and public health-related topics.” At times,         this facility, which served a multi-state area, will not be re-opening.
                                                                      Meanwhile, every stick of furniture has been sold for less than pennies on
EPA’s actions have taken on an Orwellian cast—                        the dollar.

   • Thousands of documents were “recycled” and whole
   collections were hastily dispersed to anyone willing to               $7.5 million annually, an amount far larger than the total
   accept them;                                                          agency library budget of $2.5 million;
   • “Repositories” of un-catalogued documents have grown                • A briefing paper for the agency enforcement director
   into giant information dumps; and                                     showing that the loss of library access would substan-
                                                                         tially impede investigations and prosecutions of pollut-
   • In Chicago, the largest library, all furnishings (shelves,          ers; and
   desks, cabinets, even pencil sharpeners) worth some
   $40,000 were sold for a mere $327.                                    • Memos describing how much material, paid for with
                                                                         tax dollars, will become completely inaccessible.
The agency even coined a term (“deaccessioning,” defined as
“the removal of library materials from the physical collection”)      “By putting vast troves of technical information beyond reach,
to describe the dismantlement of its network of 26 technical          EPA actually threatens to subtract from the sum total of human
libraries.                                                            knowledge,” observed PEER Associate Director Carol Gold-
                                                                      berg, who coordinated our campaign. “I am mystified the agen-
In October, EPA abruptly shut down its DC Headquarters Li-            cy has yet to offer a legitimate explanation for its actions.”
brary and, shortly thereafter, shuttered its specialized library on
the effects and properties of chemicals. This latter action, with     Leaders in the new Congress, led by incoming committee
no notice to the scientists who rely on those holdings to analyze     Chairs, such as Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Rep. Bart Gor-
new pesticides and toxic chemicals, galvanized public attention       don (D-TN), are vowing to undo the shutdowns. Under this
because it so clearly hampered needed research.                       pressure, EPA has temporarily halted further closures.
Throughout the past several months, PEER repeatedly revealed          The library closures are one of a series of steps, such as divert-
agency actions using internal e-mails and other internal records      ing public health research funds, which PEER has labeled a
to document what was occurring behind now permanently                 “self-lobotomy” being performed on EPA. One silver lining
closed doors. A key part of the campaign was to demonstrate           is the closures may be a chance for dispassionately evaluating
how counterproductive the library closures were by airing—            the entire information posture at EPA and improving both the
                                                                      amount and manner of information the agency makes available
   • Internal studies showing that full library access saves at       to its own staff as well as the public. PEER is now recruiting
   least 214,000 hours in professional staff time worth some          EPA specialists to help guide these next steps.

Winter 2007                                                                                                               11
 Public Land Disinvestment
Land Robbery
continued from page 1
While these scandals have been in the          yond Interior. The Forest Service within         ing, grazing, logging and mining to
headlines, an array of behind-the-scenes       the Agriculture Department is closing an         capture true costs of these activities
concessions may have even more last-           estimated 1,500 campsites, roughly 10%           to the taxpayer.
ing significance for generations to come.      of its total. Sites will be stripped of all
                                                                                              We can no longer use 19th century re-
One is the huge rip-off from oil “in-kind”     accoutrements – from latrines to trash
                                                                                              source laws to protect our public lands
payments to Interior. Another is the dis-      cans, picnic tables and water systems;
                                                                                              patrimony through the 21st century.
mantlement of the auditing ability within      even the fire rings will be removed. At
                                                                                              PEER will help reformers make this case
the Minerals Management Service to             the same time it is closing campsites, this
                                                                                              for change.
track coal and oil payments due the Trea-      conflicted agency is launching an effort
sury. Interior increasingly resembles a        called “More Kids in the Woods” to get
kleptocracy fueled by a furiously swing-       more children camping.
ing revolving door.
                                               Norton’s successor, Dirk Kempthorne,
One cumulative effect of these resource        has yet to reverse course but the new
heists is that federal land management         Congress appears to ready to act. The
agencies are feeling the first signs of mal-   larger challenge of returning a firm finan-
nutrition. They are forced to cut services,    cial foundation will require more than
leave positions unfilled and abandon           chasing the thieves out of the public cof-
needed husbandry efforts.                      fers; it necessitates—
Within Interior, the Bureau of Land Man-         • Ending the oil royalty giveaways
agement (BLM) is looking, for the first          and reinvesting that revenue in the
time, to proceeds from the sales of lands        public lands system;
as a major revenue source. The penury
                                                 • Fully funding the Land & Water
facing our National Wildlife Refuge Sys-
                                                 Conservation Fund ($900 million
tem is profiled on page 7. We detailed
                                                 per year from oil and gas royalty
the National Park Service budget quan-
                                                 revenue); and
dary in PEEReview Spring ’06.
                                                 • Pricing extractive permits for drill-      Hundreds of campgrounds will be closed
Shrinking support is also being felt be-                                                      throughout our national forest system.

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