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Lawmaker criticizes White House for editing testimony about health effects of global warming

Lawmaker criticizes White House for editing testimony about health effects of global warming
WASHINGTON (AP) — Two chairmen of key committees in the House and Senate on Wednesday criticized the White House for editing testimony from a government expert about the health impacts of global warming and demanded documents involving the testimony he provided to Congress.
“I am deeply concerned that important scientific and health information was removed from the … testimony at the last minute,” Sen. Barbara Boxer, chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, wrote President Bush.
Rep. Bart Gordon, D-Tenn., chairman of the House Science and Technology Committee, demanded an explanation from the White House’s chief science adviser, John Marburger, about the handing of the testimony earlier this week by Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She appeared Tuesday before Boxer’s committee, which is crafting global warming legislation.
“We expect our government researchers and scientists to provide both Congress and the public the full results of their taxpayer-supported work without the filter that those of opposing views might like to impose,” Gordon wrote Marburger.
The White House denied that the testimony by Gerberding was “watered down” and noted that she has said she does not believe she was censored.
When a draft of Gerberding’s testimony went to the White House for review, two sections — “Climate Change is a Public Health Concern” and “Climate Change Vulnerability” — and a number of other phrases were removed, cutting the 12-page document in half.
A copy of the draft given to the White House was obtained by The Associated Press.
Earlier, a CDC official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the review process, told the AP that the original draft “was eviscerated” by “heavy-handed” changes in Washington.
Boxer asked that the White House provide her committee, by next week, copies of all drafts of Gerberding’s testimony and any records of comments made on the draft testimony. “The public has a right to know all of the facts about global warming and the threat it poses to their families and communities,” Boxer wrote.
Gordon and Rep. Brad Miller, D-N.C., chairman of the House Science subcommittee on investigations and oversight, made a similar request.
White House press secretary Dana Perino said Gerberding’s testimony went through an interagency review “and a number of agencies had some concerns.”
She said some reviewers did not believe the draft matched the science as presented in a report on global warming and public health effects by a U.N. panel that has assessed climate change for decades.
The CDC testimony “was not watered down in terms of its science (or) … in terms of the concerns that climate change raises for public health,” Perino said.
Gerberding played down the changes to her prepared text and said she was comfortable with her presentation Tuesday to the Senate committee.
“I was absolutely happy with my testimony in Congress. We finally had a chance to go and say what we thought was important,” she said at a luncheon appearance in Atlanta.
“I don’t let people put words in my mouth, and I stand for science,” said Gerberding. She said she was free to depart from the six pages of prepared testimony given the committee and did so.
But the original draft, reviewed by the AP, contained much greater detail on the potential disease and other health effects of climate change than was in either Gerberding’s prepared remarks or in her other comments during the hearing. “The public health effects of climate change remain largely unaddressed. CDC considers climate change a serious public health concern,” the draft says. The phrase was not in the testimony given the committee or in her other remarks at the hearing.
Gerberding referred briefly to a chart, displayed at the hearing, that listed the potential health effect, but provided little elaboration.
Examples included excessive heat, respiratory problems, more air pollution and possible spread of animal-transmitted and waterborne diseases.
The original text devoted six pages — all deleted — to these items.
Claims by the White House that some sections were removed because they did not — as Perino said — “comport with the science” in the U.N. panel’s report were challenged by Boxer’s staff. They said an analysis showed some of the deleted references were similar to concerns raised in the U.N. panel’s report.
Gordon in his letter also said that the IPCC report “appears to support the deleted sections of Dr. Gerberding’s testimony.”
The CDC is the premier public health and disease tracking and response agency in the federal government. It is part of the Health and Human Services Department.
The Bush administration has tried to defend itself for months from accusations it has put political pressure on scientists to emphasize the uncertainties of global warming.
A House committee heard testimony this year from climate scientists who complained that the administration often had sought to manage or influence their statements and public appearances.
The White House has said it has only sought to provide a balanced view of the climate issue.
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Associated Press writer Doug Gross in Atlanta contributed to this report.
Published in The Messenger 10.25.07

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