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Cheney’s office tried to alter greenhouse gas testimony, former official says

Vice President Dick Cheney’s office worked to alter sworn congressional testimony provided by a federal official in order to play down the threat of global warming and head off regulation of greenhouse gas emissions, a former government official said in a new accusation Tuesday.

Jason K. Burnett, a former Environmental Protection Agency official, cited the behind-the-scenes efforts by unnamed officials in Cheney’s office in a letter to congressional investigators regarding testimony in January by his former boss, EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson.

Burnett appeared at a news conference Tuesday with Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who said his statements could boost efforts by California and other states to implement their own vehicle emission standards over White House opposition. Boxer plans to call Burnett to testify later this month before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which she chairs.

His charges are likely to give Bush administration critics new ammunition in their efforts to portray executive-branch actions on the environment as driven by politics, rather than science.

Administration pressure also was cited in changes to testimony by the head of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in October and in an attempt to prevent the EPA from taking a step toward regulating greenhouse gas emissions in December.

The Supreme Court ruled last year that the EPA was required to evaluate whether greenhouse gas emissions posed a risk and, if so, implement regulations on polluters. President Bush has opposed mandatory limits on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, oil refineries and other polluters, contending such steps would drive up energy costs and hurt the economy.

But White House efforts to edit testimony were “clearly misconduct, in terms of interfering with scientific information,” said Bettina Poirier, staff director for the environment committee. However, she said, she was still examining whether those actions violated the law.

For Cheney, the new accusation, coming as he winds down his time in Washington, is similar to criticism he faced early in his vice presidency over private meetings he held to shape national energy policy. Then, as now, the White House refused to turn over documents sought by congressional investigators.

Cheney spokeswoman Lea Anne McBride responded: “We won’t discuss internal deliberations.”


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