by BAR editor and columnist Marsha Coleman-Adebayo
President Obama’s decision to abandon his Environmental Protection Agency’s new Clean Air regulations presents EPA chief Lisa Jackson with a stark choice: to swallow hard and keep her job or do the right thing by blowing the moral whistle on her boss. Faced with a similar dilemma, a former Bush EPA administrator resigned rather than oversee injustice. The public’s options are grim: “Americans are being forced into an untenable situation of choosing between their ability to breathe and opportunity to work.
Lisa Jackson, Blow the Whistle on Obama!
by BAR editor and columnist Marsha Coleman-Adebayo
“Black and Hispanic communities would bear a disproportionate burden of health effects.”
It’s hard to know who to believe in the Obama Administration. In a Huffington Post op ed piece on August 31st authored by EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, she quotes industry leaders by saying, “These (clean air) regulations will not kill coal,” and by extension would not be job killers. She then provides an impressive list of corporate support for cleaner technology.
On September 2nd, Senators Ben Cardin and Barbara Boxer sent messages to their constituents detailing the catastrophic effects maintaining the status quo would have on our health, particularly the young and elderly, by 2020. It is anticipated that there will be 230,000 early deaths, 120,000 emergency room visits, 2.4 million asthma attacks, and 200,000 acute heart attacks. The environmental justice community should be particularly outraged at president Obama’s decision to genuflect to right wing Republicans on tighter Clean Air provisions. Black and Hispanic communities would bear a disproportionate burden of health effects from exposure to smog and other pollutants since these communities are more likely to be located in close proximity to pollution sites.
Nevertheless, the President directed Jackson to stand down on its smog regulations. His decision placed profit over the health of Americans and profoundly demonstrated the schizophrenic dimensions of environmental policy under his administration.
“It is anticipated that there will be 230,000 early deaths, 120,000 emergency room visits, 2.4 million asthma attacks, and 200,000 acute heart attacks.”
Notwithstanding the dire consequences that will result from delaying the Clean Air Act regulations, Senator Boxer’s initial tepid response was followed by a call for a lawsuit against the President. Denying that her position was politically motivated, Boxer said, “I’m not making any charge…I’m just saying I disagree, strongly … and I hope they’ll [the White House] be sued in court and I hope the court can stand by the Clean Air Act.” Fundamentally, the administration’s position is contrary to the mission of EPA to protect our air, water, and land. It also attempts to pit Americans’ need for employment and jobs against concerns for their health. Americans are being forced into an untenable situation of choosing between their ability to breathe and opportunity to work.
More fundamentally, the deconstructed environmental debate points to a lack of commitment and moral clarity on the part of the EPA administrator, adding a green theme to the hysteria that the public must choose between good health and jobs.
Before the ink dried on my new book, No FEAR: A Whistleblowers Triumph over Corruption and Retaliation at the EPA, the Obama Administration had illustrated another embarrassing link between big business and powerful interests in Washington, both within the Democratic and Republican ranks.
Ms. Jackson is not the first EPA administrator to find herself in the harrowing position when political policies and loyalty to powerful forces run afoul of common human decency; when political forces expect total loyalty even on the altar of one’s conscience. Federal government whistleblowers know the place where Ms. Jackson sits only too well. Former Republican EPA Administrator Christine Whitman was confronted with such a dilemma during her tenure. In 2003, President George W. Bush, much like Obama, ordered Whitman to stand down on air pollution controls. Whitman refused to sign off on the new rule and tendered her resignation to the president. We expect that kind of moral courage and conviction from our leaders. When they do not exhibit the minimum level of courage, integrity and commitment to fight for the least of these, everything else they do becomes suspect.
“For the hundreds of thousands of children and elderly who relied on her leadership to protect them from smog and other dangerous air pollutants, it may be too late.”
EPA employees are no stranger to the challenge confronting Ms. Jackson of choosing between what is right and exposing corruption and caving to political power that can destroy one’s career. Employees are faced with unseemly ultimatums to falsify documents or to stand down on policies that may endanger the health and safety of the public. For a significant number of employees filing a complaint of discrimination leads to the eventual termination of their Federal careers. The downward spiral into the ranks of the unemployed and uninsured becomes a near certainty. The EPA Office of General Counsel is adept in using every legal trick in EPA’s carefully crafted playbook to destroy the careers and reputations of whistleblowers.
Perhaps, the humbling experience of choosing her job over her conscience will enlighten Ms. Jackson. However, for the hundreds of thousands of children and elderly who relied on her leadership to protect them from smog and other dangerous air pollutants, it may be too late.
It is hoped that Jackson will remember the minute exposure of humiliation and disregard she experienced by President Obama, a tiny spore that doesn’t even approximate the vicious retaliation that she endorsed, enabled, and encouraged her underlings to serve daily to EPA whistleblowers.
Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, a former senior policy analyst at the Environmental Protection Agency, is the author of the new book "No Fear: A Whistleblower's Triumph over Corruption and Retaliation at the EPA." The book is available at all bookstores and Amazon.com. The book is published by Lawrence Hill Books an imprint of Chicago Review Press. Her victory in Coleman-Adebayo v. Carol M. Browner inspired the passage of the No FEAR Act of 2002-the first whistleblower and civil rights law of the 21st century. Please go to www.marshacoleman-adebayo.com to sign a petition demanding that President Obama and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson reverse their decision on the Clean Air Act.