|An official from Vice President Dick Cheney's office allegedly ordered six pages cut.|
WASHINGTON - Members of Vice President Dick Cheney's staff censored congressional testimony by a top federal official on the health threats posed by global warming, a former official of the Environmental Protection Agency said yesterday.
In a letter to Senator Barbara Boxer, Democrat of California, Jason Burnett, former EPA deputy associate administrator, said an official from Cheney's office ordered that six pages be edited out of the testimony last October of Julie Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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Boxer, who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said the administration feared that Gerberding's testimony would force the federal government to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels. The White House has opposed mandatory limits and insisted that voluntary measures and increased research are the best way to address the issue.
"The Council on Environmental Quality and the Office of the Vice President were seeking deletions to the CDC testimony," Burnett, a 31-year old Stanford-trained economist and a Democrat, wrote in response to an inquiry from Boxer's committee. The council "requested that I work with CDC to remove from the testimony any discussion of the human health consequences of climate change."
Burnett, a grandson of high-tech entrepreneur David Packard and a member of the Packard Foundation's board of trustees, has given more than $129,000 to Democratic campaigns in recent years, including $3,600 to presidential candidate Barack Obama of Illinois. He did not identify who in the vice president's office called him.
"I'm not interested in pointing fingers at any individual," he said at a news conference with Boxer. He is focused instead, he said, on how the federal government will address climate change in response to a Supreme Court decision last year requiring the EPA to deal with the issue of rising carbon dioxide emissions. "I'm interested in helping inform the next administration to help make those decisions, while recognizing Congress could act to pass a better law."
Boxer demanded that, in light of Burnett's allegations, Stephen L. Johnson, EPA administrator, turn over "every document related to the agency's finding that global warming poses a danger to the public" - a determination the EPA reached late last year in a document that has never been made public. On that basis, the senator said, the EPA must issue regulations to limit the emissions. The White House refused to open the EPA e-mail containing that finding, sent Dec. 5, leaving the recommendation in limbo.
"I'm calling on Mr. Johnson to act now, and if he doesn't have the courage or the strength or determination to act, he should resign," Boxer said.
EPA spokesman Jonathan Shradar said Johnston would not provide the documents, but added that Boxer and others would be able to read about the agency's findings in detail when it releases its proposed regulation on greenhouse gases, expected within days.