Home > Hot topics, Policy watch, Politics > A question of credibility – Governor’s do get caught in lies

A question of credibility – Governor’s do get caught in lies

September 22nd, 2008 Leave a comment Go to comments

Like Palin, Whitman’s false statements contradicted DEP scientists

[Update: 12.04.08 – in addition to the DEP memo below, for those interested in reading press coverage that documents the Whitman false and misleading statements, including an attempt to coverup the problem of mercury pollution, click on and see:
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My prior post documented that Alaska Governor Palin misrepresented the science on global warming and polar bear impacts for political reasons, and her Administration took steps to cover that up when she was called on it. http://blog.nj.com/njv_bill_wolfe/2008/09/palin_misrepresented_global_wa.html

For that, my credibility was questioned. Do people really think politicians don’t lie?

Well, here’s another example – right here in NJ – where Governor Whitman did virtually the same thing as Palin. And just like Palin’s Wikipedia profile was scrubbed, so too was Whitman’s.

Read the smoking gun “confidential” DEP memo below that corrects Whitman’s false statements.

This memo is included in the US Senate Environment and Public Works Committee transcript of Whitman’s confirmation hearing for EPA Administrator. But you won’t find it on Whitman’s Wiki profile! See page 127-128 @ http://bulk.resource.org/gpo.gov/hearings/107s/69822.pdf

Following the release of a scientific study that documented widespread unsafe levels of toxic mercury in NJ freshwater fish, Whitman falsely claimed that the kind of mercury found in the fish was unknown and therefore required further research before taking any action. She did not make honest minor misstatements. In contrast, her statements were part of a strategy to falsely inject scientific uncertainty and minimize health risks in order to avoid taking regulatory enforcement against specific pollution sources of mercury (garbage incinerators and coal fired power plants). When this scientific research was leaked and a coverup strategy memo were disclosed to the public by the press, Whitman not only repeated the lies but also retaliated against a career DEP employee who called her on those lies –

March 28, 1994.

TO: Commissioner Robert Shinn.
THROUGH: Robert Tucker, Ph.D., Director.
FROM: Leslie McGeorge, Assistant Director.
SUBJECT: Information on Mercury in Fish.

Over the past several weeks, it has been observed that information attributed by the press to the Governor’s Office on the issue of mercury in fish has contained some technical inaccuracies. We offer the information in this memorandum for your consideration in providing the Governor’s Office with further clarification of this issue.

As was stated by the Governor’s Office, there are three forms of mercury:
* Elemental Mercury (metallic mercury). This is the type of mercury used in thermometers.
* Inorganic Mercury (mercury salts). An example is mercuric chloride.
* Organic Mercury. Methylmercury is the most important organic mercury
compound in terms of environmental exposure.

Contrary to the statements reported in the press, all three forms of mercury are toxic to humans. Elemental mercury is volatile, and it is toxic when breathed from the air; exposure to elemental mercury can cause effects on the central nervous system.

The toxicity of the other two types of mercury (inorganic and organic) can occur through ingestion, which is the exposure route relevant to mercury in fish. Inorganic mercury is toxic to the kidney. Methylmercury, the organic mercury of primary concern, is toxic to the central nervous system. The most sensitive toxic effect of Methylmercury in non-pregnant adults is paresthesia (abnormal sensations in the skin). Methylmercury is also toxic to the developing fetus, and causes defects in the development of the nervous system. This developmental toxicity is the most sensitive effect of exposure to methylmercury.

Of the different forms of mercury, all scientific data indicate that essentially all of the mercury in fish is methylmercury. The most recent and reliable investigation into the occurrence of methylmercury in fish conducted under ultraclean laboratory conditions (Bloom, 1992) showed that almost all of the mercury in the edible portion of fish and shellfish (muscle tissue) is in the form of methylmercury. This study included multiple samples (at least 3) of 15 species. For all species, the average percentage of methylmercury was at least 91 percent of total mercury, and for all freshwater fish species, methylmercury was 96 percent or more of total mercury. These results are generalizable to all marine and freshwater fish.

Information attributed to the Governor by the press indicated that there may be a marked difference in the ease of metabolism of different forms of mercury, and that the toxicity of mercury is-dependent on whether it is released naturally or by man-made processes. Actually, the time required for the body to rid itself of a dose of mercury is generally similar for all three forms of mercury. Additionally, the toxicity of a given form of mercury is not dependent on whether it originated from natural or man-made processes. Any type of mercury released may undergo changes from one form to the other in the environment. The mercury in fish may have come from either source, but the origin of the mercury in the tissue is not relevant to the potential for toxicity to humans.

In summary, there are three forms of mercury. For all intents and purposes the only form of mercury found in fish is methylmercury. Exposure to methylmercury through fish ingestion can pose a significant potential for adverse human health effects.

Mercury in fish may originate from human or natural processes, but this distinction is not relevant from a human health perspective.

The Division of Science and Research has additional information on all of the points mentioned above. We would be happy to discuss these issues further with you at your convenience if you so desire. (1)”

[Update 2: for a similarly disturbing episode by Whitman, see this NY Times 12/21//00 story – which again shows Whitman as – at best – ignorant and incapable of admitting a serious mistake: : http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9402E3D61E39F932A15751C1A9669C8B63

“But when asked to discuss her views on the science behind global warming on Tuesday, Governor Whitman responded by citing her doubts about the causes of the hole in the protective ozone layer high in the atmosphere.

She was asked: ”Global warming, what is your thought on what the state of science is and what can be done to address it?”

Mrs. Whitman said: ”Still somewhat uncertain. Clearly there’s a hole in the ozone, that has been identified. But I saw a study the other day that showed that that was closing. It’s not as clear, the cause and effect, as we would like it to be.”

When some experts on the atmosphere and pollution read a transcript of Mrs. Whitman’s statements, they said the governor had clearly confused two distinct, important global environmental problems: global warming and the ozone hole.

Today, asked to clarify her views, the governor said she might have misunderstood the question, but added that she did not think the two issues were ”not interrelated.”

”In both of those instances, I’m not sure that there’s a scientific consensus on how to deal with them,” Governor Whitman said today. ”There seems to be good enough evidence that both are occurring. But I am not aware of a uniformly agreed to scientific response, on either the causes or the solutions here.”
Others have written about this as follows:

“Consider the Dec. 21 New York Times article detailing what happened when a reporter asked for her assessment of global warming.

“Still somewhat uncertain,” she told the reporter. “Clearly there’s a hole in the ozone–that has been identified. But I saw a study the other day that showed that that was closing. It’s not as clear, the cause and effect, as we would like it.” Later, Whitman added that global warming and ozone depletion were “interrelated” and that she wasn’t “sure that there’s a scientific consensus on how to deal with them.”

For environmentalists, Whitman’s answer is extremely unsettling. Not only did she confuse ozone depletion with global warming–two very different and distinct problems–but she also grossly understated scientists’ current understanding of both phenomena.”

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  1. unprovincial
    September 22nd, 2008 at 12:17 | #1

    And people at NJDEP know that when Whitman was going to be grilled by Congress for appointment as head of EPA for Bush, that she required DEP staff coach her on such things as the difference between ground-level ozone (air pollution) and ozone in the upper atmosphere (whose depletion is the cause of global warming). She didn’t know the difference before her education by staff.

  2. nohesitation
    September 22nd, 2008 at 12:25 | #2

    unprovincial – you are exactly right on Whitman’s lack of understanding, but slightly wrong on the ozone. Depletion of stratospheric ozone leads to more cancer causing UV radiation, not global warming.
    In fact, the Whitman misunderstandings with respect to ground level versus stratospheric ozone were quoted in a NY TImes article, if I recall correctly.
    I will try to dig that NY Times article up.

  3. disseddep
    December 5th, 2008 at 07:17 | #3

    Whitman’s destructive legacy will live on with an appointment like Lisa Jackson. Jackson is worse, though, because she will eliminate the science program (as she did in New Jersey). At least Whitman knew enough to keep the scientists around! Jackson has laid off all the scientist in the division you cite in your confidential memo, including the ones who are working on mercury in fish. Shame on her – and now she may run the federal agency.

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