3. CSPW LEGISLATIVE WATCH
A decade ago Rick Piltz blew the whistle and joined the ranks of official federal whistleblowers by seeking the help of the Government Accountability Project (GAP) and sending a trove of damning material to New York Times reporter Andrew Revkin. Revkin’s scathing June 2005 article pointed the finger at a high-level political appointee in the George W. Bush White House, Phil Cooney, who had been abusing his position at the Council on Environmental Quality to tamper with federal scientific reports in order to cast false doubt on the climate change threat. Cooney, formerly of the American Petroleum Institute, quickly resigned and shortly thereafter took a job at Exxon Mobil. Rick quit his job in protest and in a 14-page resignation memo asserted the Bush administration “does not want and has acted to impede forthright communication of the state of climate science and its implications for society.” GAP’s Climate Science Watch (CSW) program was born out of this brave act, and was initially envisioned by Rick to keep a (clearly much-needed) watchful eye on the White House and the rest of the Executive Branch of government, no matter who happened to be the sitting president.
Soon after, Rick turned his attention to the US Congress as well, keenly aware of the potential of our elected officials to similarly infringe upon the rights of scientists studying our disrupted climate system by tampering with or even censoring the results of their work as they had intended it for policy-makers. Political interference in climate scientists’ witness testimony was already being documented, and Rick produced exclusive news reports of politicized testimony by publishing the leaked, unredacted versions on behalf of the author witnesses. Scientific integrity in the halls of Congress is surely as important as in the White House, as enacted laws can long outlive presidents and administrations. GAP intends to honor the legacy of Rick Piltz by carrying forward what he had envisioned just before his passing in fall 2014. As he wished, Climate Science Watch will continue to serve its established watchdog role in accordance with the expanded vision Rick set forth to GAP before he passed. Among the other pillars outlined throughout this section, the next phase of GAP’s Climate Science Watch program – now renamed: Climate Science & Policy Watch (CSPW) includes the establishing of a robust “Legislative Watch” function that will supplement and enhance the other core CSPW initiatives Rick outlined.
By monitoring and reporting on key developments in Congressional Committees and in the chambers of the House and Senate, CSPW will keep its readers informed and better armed to exercise their power and influence as citizens at the grassroots level and beyond. We will keep a watchful eye on those we elected to govern and, ostensibly, make sound decisions on our behalf as global temperatures rise and the panoply of impacts long predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the United States Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) are increasingly felt in communities across the nation and the world. As we launch CSPW, prolonged drought, devastating wildfires, extreme weather events, and other threats to our lives and livelihoods remind us daily of the disconnect between the actual level of danger on the ground and the response in government, too often marked by delay and outright denial. There are indeed a few champions of sensible climate policy, but they are too few and too drowned out by the din of fossil fuel combustion apologists. We will point out instances of ill-advised Congressional actions as well as instances in which a strong moral and even fiscal obligation to act is simply ignored. So far, we see even less good governance and even more politically motivated, Koch brother-influenced misbehavior than was taking place under Rick’s watchful eye. We are deeply concerned that, through what can be legitimately characterized as gross negligence, members of the US Congress are collectively putting the nation in harm’s way, thus compromising “homeland security” in the purest sense of the term.
CSPW Legislative Watch will report on hearings, committee markups, provisions in bills passing key hurdles towards enactment, noteworthy statements and utterings of our elected officials. CSPW will also, on occasion – and with your help – make our voices heard in Congress. Where it makes sense for us to do so, we will reach out to like-minded organizations and groups to create synergies of democracy. Rick Piltz had been working on a book he had planned to title “Breaking the Silence.” While sadly the book never made it to publication, CSPW Legislative Watch will be breaking the silence on a regular basis, carrying on the heart and soul of the admirable effort put forth by our dear friend. So… stay tuned as the dialogue Rick started continues.