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EPA Orders Employees to Remove YouTube Climate Video

Agency Threatens Discipline for Off-Duty Warnings on Cap & Trade Failures


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has ordered two of its
attorneys to remove a video they posted on YouTube about problems with
climate change legislation backed by the Obama administration or face
"disciplinary action", according to documents released today by Public
Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The couple had
received clearance for posting the video but EPA took issue with its
content following publication of an op-ed piece by the two in The
Washington Post on October 31.

The video, entitled "The Huge
Mistake", is by Laurie Williams and Allan Zabel, two EPA enforcement
attorneys speaking as private citizens. The video explains why the cap
& trade plan endorsed by President Obama will not accomplish its
goals, let alone effectively curb climate change. On November 5, 2009,
EPA ethics officials ordered the two veteran employees to -

  • "Remove your climate change video from You Tube by the close of business on Friday, November 6, 2009";
  • "Edit your You Tube
    • (i)
      Removing the language starting at 1:06 min - 'Our opinions are based on
      more than 20 years each working as attorneys at the U.S. Environmental
      Protection Agency in the San Francisco Regional Office.'
    • (ii) Removing the images of EPA's building starting at 1:06 min...
    • (v)
      Remove [sic] the language starting at 6:30 min - 'In my work at EPA,
      I've been overseeing California's cap-and-trade and offset programs for
      more than 20 years.'"
  • "All future requests
    for approval of an outside writing activity must be accompanied by a
    draft of the document that is the subject of the approval request..."

is abusing ethics rules to gag two conscientious employees who have
every right to speak out as citizens," stated PEER Executive Director
Jeff Ruch, who has re-posted the original video and its script. "EPA
reversed itself because someone in headquarters had a tantrum about
their Washington Post essay."

Williams and Zabel, who are
married to each other, go to great lengths in the video and other
writings to provide disclaimers affirming that their views are personal
and do not represent the agency. However, EPA now objects to them even
referring to their on-the-job experience as the basis for their views.

"How is government supposed to be transparent when public servants are
forbidden from discussing the nature of their work?" asked Ruch. "EPA
and every other federal agency should have simple, clear guidelines so
that government workers can express themselves freely without political
prior restraints."

In August, EPA Administrator Jackson issued
an all-employee statement saying the agency will operate as if in a
"fishbowl" but left ambiguous whether and how employees may publish
papers or communicate with Congress and the media. By contrast, a few
agencies such as the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service have dispensed
with any pre-approval of employees' unofficial expressions, as long as
they are accompanied by a short disclaimer.


Read the EPA directive to remove the video

Watch the censored video

See their Washington Post op-ed

View Williams and Zabel's more detailed critique of cap & trade

Look at EPA's semi-transparency under Obama

Compare the Fish & Wildlife Service right to publish

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is a national alliance of local state and federal resource professionals. PEER's environmental work is solely directed by the needs of its members. As a consequence, we have the distinct honor of serving resource professionals who daily cast profiles in courage in cubicles across the country.