News You Won’t Get From The Hometown Cheerleaders
[Update 3 – 7/15/10 – more news you won’t read in NJ papersÂ - Â following up on the LA Times story, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson hammered by Senate on EPA policy on Gulf dispersants, see NY Times storyÂ - NJ Senator Lautenberg to introduce bill to provide cover for Jackson’sÂ failures to use existing authority under Clean Water Act. All while BP and EPA spin the numbers (watch CNN segment and see!). And read this - it’sÂ all you need to know about “see no evil”Â EPA science:
Currently, federal agencies are not testing seafood coming out of the Gulf for traces of chemical dispersants.]
Update 2 – if anyone thinks I am just anti-Obama or writing this out ofÂ some form of anti-Obama bias,Â see this July 14, 2008 postÂ - andÂ for an excellentÂ big picture analysis of the Obama administration failures, with which I agree see:Â Â Kabuki Democracy: Why a Progressive Presidency Is Impossible, for Now]
Update 1: Dan Froomkin at HuffPo also nailed it:Â Â Despite Obama’s Lofty Words, Scientific Integrity Rules Are Lagging]
The Los Angeles Times prominently featuredÂ an important national storyÂ you won’t read in NJ papers – I want to provide a long excerpt before I provide my ownÂ NJ based thoughts (based on NJ experience).
Â The LA Times headline captures the essenceÂ of the story:
Scientists expected Obama administration to be friendlier – A culture of politics trumping science, many say, persists despite the president’s promises. The use of potentially toxic dispersants to fight the gulf oil spill is cited as just one example.
Reporting from Washington â€”
When he ran for president, Barack Obama attacked the George W. Bush administration for putting political concerns ahead of science on such issues as climate change and public health. And during his first weeks in the White House, President Obama ordered his advisors to develop rules to “guarantee scientific integrity throughout the executive branch.”
Many government scientists hailed the president’s pronouncement. But a year and a half later, no such rules have been issued. Now scientists charge that the Obama administration is not doing enough to reverse a culture that they contend allowed officials to interfere with their work and limit their ability to speak out.
“We are getting complaints from government scientists now at the same rate we were during the Bush administration,” said Jeffrey Ruch, an activist lawyer who heads an organization representing scientific whistle-blowers. [...]
The most immediate case of politics allegedly trumping science, some government and outside environmental experts said, was the decision to fight the gulf oil spill with huge quantities of potentially toxic chemical dispersants despite advice to examine the dangers more thoroughly.
Ruch’s organization, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, also said it had been contacted by an EPA toxicologist who said a request for review of the toxicity of oil dispersants in the Gulf of Mexico was rebuffed.
EPA analyst Hugh B. Kaufman, a 39-year veteran, said he had heard similar complaints from colleagues. Kaufman believes that his agency “gave the green light to using dispersants without doing the necessary studies.”
A past EPA administrator, William Reilly, said in an interview with CBS last month that he had refused to allow the toxic chemicals’ use after the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster off the coast of Alaska because of the potential effect on salmon.
Democratic Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, who has proposed legislation to prohibit dispersant use until further scientific studies are completed, said the EPA “has been entirely irresponsible” in its review of dispersants.
In May, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson acknowledged that dispersants could be problematic, but that “they are used to move us toward the lesser of two difficult environmental outcomes.”
In contrast to the “Many government scientists (who) hailed the president’s pronouncement“,Â and “expected theÂ Obama Administration to be friendlier“,Â we are not at all surprisedÂ by the fact that the Obama EPA is acting like the Bush EPA when it comes to elevating politics over science.
US EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson is a political animal that is loyal to her boss, first and foremost.
In NJ, her loyalty went to Governor Corzine, not science and environmental and public health protection. In Washington, it is Obama.
As regular readers of this blog surelyÂ know,Â while current US EPA Administrator Lisa JacksonÂ was Commissioner of the NJ DEP, we frequently critized her leadership on issues related to a lack of transparency andÂ scientific integrity, particularly her tendency to issue lofty sounding press statements with no follow through and to elevate political interests above science (for examples, see this, and see this and this and thisÂ and thisÂ and this).
We reiterated those concerns during her EPA confirmation hearings.
But while those issues receivedÂ attentionÂ of the Chair of the US Senate Environment Committee andÂ national press outlets,Â very few of our criticisms got serious considerationÂ in NJ media circles.
Instead, NJ press and politicians (and some environmentalists) acted as cheerleaders for Jackson, who is now advising Obama on issues of environmental and public health science, while caving to oil interests on theÂ dispersant toxicity issues (and big coal and others).Â
Those same groups that backed JacksonÂ sat silently on theÂ sidelines when Obama rolled outÂ his pitiful global warming program that was denounced by the world in Copenhagen.
Those same groupsÂ now support Obama’s pathetic cap andÂ trade scheme -Â modeled on NJ’s failed effortÂ crafted by Lisa Jackson -Â which was denounced by leading global warming scientist, Jim Hansen.
They said nothing when on March 30 the NY Times reported that Obama announcedÂ support for off shore oil drilling, ironically just weeks before the BP Gulf oil blowout. (Update: Jackson testified to US Senate Â (@ page 18) in opposition toÂ offshore drilling offÂ the Virginia coast when NJ DEP Commissioner – so there are 3 disturbing possibilities: either: 1) her NJDEP testimony was all politics; or 2) she caved and did not oppose Obama’s plan; or 3) JacksonÂ has no influence in Obama energy circles: see note belowÂ for testimony, which got wall to wall high profile favorableÂ press coverage in NJ – but where are those reporters now when Jackson’s commitment, influence, and integrity are called into question?).
SoÂ now the Gulf dispersant issue (and many others) illustratesÂ why it is important to speak truth to power and tell it like it is – especially when your so called progressive friends and political allies let you down.
So, given Jackson’s NJÂ history,Â why is thereÂ surprise that Obama has not delivered on promises and lived up to expectations with respect to science ?
(Note:Â For a prescient criticalÂ assessment of Obama’s team, see: “Obama’s Used Green Team – Meet the Retreads“.
Â EPA Administrator Lisa Â Jackson is the thirdÂ ”strongest”Â Obama cabinet scienceÂ advisor,in a lackluster constellation of recyled Clinton EPA head and now Climate Change CzarÂ Carol Browner, political hack Ken Salazar, and former NJ Girl Heather Zichal, Obama’s Deputy policy advisor on energy and global warming. Jackson is third, behind superblyÂ qualifiedÂ Secretary of Energy Chu and NOAA Administrator Lubchenko).
[UpdateÂ 3 -Â Â Lisa Jackson’s January 25, 2007 testimony to US Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Â (@ page 18)- opposed off shore drilling based on based on Virginia location and proximity to NJ beaches – did she give Obama the same advice?:
Â ”I would like to reaffirm the State of New Jersey’s opposition to oil and gas lease sales for areas off the coast of New Jersey, as well as the opening of the mid-Atlantic to offshore oil and gas development. Such an action would leave New Jersey Â vulnerable to damage caused by drilling related incidents in nearby waters. While I can only speak for New Jersey, other northeast states, including Delaware and Connecticut, have been just as vocal in their opposition to drilling in theÂ Outer Continental Shelf.
Our coast helps drive our tourism economy, which brings in more than $36 billion a year. In fact, one out of every six jobs in New Jersey is related to the “Coastal Zone,” making coastal revenues our state’s largest economic sector . $4.5 billion comes from commercial and recreational fishing and aquaculture alone.”