Denialist attack on EPA handling of Carlin document– Part 3: Govt Accountability Project statement

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The global warming disinformation campaign – politicians, media, ideologue politicos – has falsely and disingenuously accused EPA of suppressing climate science and censoring a climate science whistleblower.  Part 3:  Statement by Government Accountability Project Legal Director on the Carlin incident.

See previous posts in this series:
Part 1: The document

Part 2: The e-mails

The Government Accountability Project (GAP) is a 30-year-old nonprofit public interest group that promotes government and corporate accountability by advancing occupational free speech, defending whistleblowers, and empowering citizen activists.  GAP is the nation’s leading whistleblower protection organization.  Climate Science Watch is a sponsored project of GAP.

Statement by Tom Devine, Legal Director, Government Accountability Project, Washington, DC:

“Recently some politicians have started crying wolf, attempting to create a contrived scandal about free speech repression where it hasn’t occurred. But there is a lesson for EPA, the relevant government agency, on crossing i’s and dotting t’s required by procedural requirements for those rights. Earlier this year EPA declined to consider unsolicited comments by an internal global warming critic during an intra-agency review before issuing a proposed finding that carbon emissions endanger public health and welfare. That finding paves the way for Clean Air Act regulation, to the extent that EPA’s authority to regulate is not cancelled by the pending Waxman-Markey cap and trade bill.

“Alan Carlin, an EPA economist without related duties or subject matter expertise, tried to submit extensive comments that summarized the views of others already on record who have attacked the proposed finding. As part of an extended email dialogue, Carlin’s director replied that it was too late, and that he should stop working on or communicating about the issue. The agency failed to specifically limit its instructions by saying they only applied to Carlin’s on-the-job activities, but that he was free to speak as an individual citizen.  In reality, EPA has made no effort to obstruct or retaliate against him for posting his views as a private citizen on Internet websites and appearing in the media to publicize them. Various politicians, including House global warming critics Joseph Barton, Darrell Issa and James Sensebrenner, contend there has been free speech suppression.

“So far, this is a phony scandal. EPA should always reaffirm the boundary that any speech restrictions do not affect a government employee’s free speech rights as a private citizen. Alternatively, it could include boilerplate language to that effect from an “anti-gag statute” that Congress has required for the last twenty years. That is merely a technical, “no harm no foul” violation of relevant procedures while respecting free speech rights, which is what counts. The linguistic shortcuts should be corrected, however, because otherwise employees may well take at face value what appear to be blanket gag statements. It does not matter whether the violation was intentional or inadvertent, if the effect is to silence government workers.
 
“This red herring controversy is an opportunity for EPA to institutionalize a scientific freedom high road approach through two actions: 1) Post the anti-gag statute on its website and start including it as a boilerplate in any nondisclosure policies or orders. Technically this is required by law, and even the Pentagon has complied for over 20 years. 2) EPA Administrator Jackson should send a letter to Carlin thanking him for his interest to contribute to the public record on EPA policy in his capacity as a private citizen, reassuring him that it will honor and respect that right. NASA wisely took a similar stance with its top scientist and climate change whistleblower, Jim Hansen, who thinks the government is not doing enough. EPA would be wise to douse these sparks the same way, before they catch and spread. President Obama is requiring every agency to create scientific freedom policies, EPA should start here.” 

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