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Cheney Aides Altered CDC Testimony

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THE PROGRESSIVE REVIEW - July 10, 2008
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Cheney Aides Altered CDC Testimony, Agency Official Says
by: Juliet Eilperin
The Washington Post 

Ex-administrator says official from vice president's office 
edited out six pages. 

Members of Vice President's Dick Cheney's staff censored 
congressional testimony by a top federal official on the 
health threats posed by global warming, a former 
Environmental Protection Agency official said today. 

In a letter to Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who chairs 
the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, former 
EPA deputy associate administrator Jason K. Burnett said 
an official from Cheney's office edited out six pages from 
the testimony of Julie Gerberding, director of the Centers 
for Disease Control and Prevention, last October. 

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Several media outlets, including The Washington Post, 
reported at the time that Gerberding had planned to say 
that "CDC considers climate change a serious public health 
concern," among other passages. 

Boxer said the administration feared that Gerberding's 
testimony would force it 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 problem. 

"The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and the Office 
of the Vice President (OVP) 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. "CEQ requested that I work with 
CDC to remove from the testimony any discussion of the 
human health consequences of climate change." 

Burnett, a member of the wealthy Packard family, has given 
more than $100,000 to Democratic campaigns in recent years, 
including $3,600 to Democratic presidential candidate 
Barack Obama (Ill.). He did not identify who in the vice 
president's office called him. 

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"I'm not interested in pointing fingers at any individual," 
he said at a press conference with Boxer this morning, 
adding he was focused on seeing how the federal government 
will address climate change in response to last year's 
Supreme Court decision requiring 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, EPA 
administrator Stephen L. Johnson 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 - and issue a rule finding that greenhouse 
gases endanger public welfare. The White House has refused 
to open the email making that finding, which Burnett sent 
over on Dec. 5, thereby 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. 

Cheney spokeswoman Lea Anne McBride declined to comment in 
detail on Burnett's allegations, saying, "We don't comment 
on internal deliberations." 

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However White House spokesman Tony Fratto noted that White 
House officials in past administrations have vetted 
congressional testimony from agency officials. 

"There's absolutely nothing unusual here in terms of the 
inter-agency review process, whether it's testimony, rules 
or anything else," Fratto said in an interview. "The 
process exists so that other offices and departments have 
the opportunity to comment and offer their views. There's 
nothing unusual about that, there's nothing nefarious about 
that, and there's nothing different here from previous 
administrations." 

Frank O'Donnell, who heads the advocacy group Clean Air 
Watch, said the latest revelations confirm that the vice 
president has been steering the nation's environmental 
policy during President Bush's tenure. 

"For years we've suspected that Cheney was the puppeteer 
for administration policy on global warming," O'Donnell 
said. "This kiss-and-tell account appears to confirm the 
worst." 

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