Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility

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Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, environmental protection organization of local, state, and national government natural resource and environmental professionals. PEER serves as a resource to potential government whistleblowers, allowing them to anonymously expose environmental wrongdoings and assisting them in redressing agency retaliation.

Founded in 1996, PEER operates primarily by investigating claims from public employees about government environmental misconduct. Because whistleblowers often face direct retaliation from the offending agencies, PEER encourages employees to act through the organization to reveal government environmental misdeeds. Once a claim is made, PEER investigates it, often using Freedom of Information Act requests. The organization then can choose to take a number of actions, including press releases or lawsuits. PEER also serves to provide legal services to whistleblowers who find themselves the target of agency retaliation.[1] As of January 2011, PEER is formally affiliated with Climate Science Legal Defense Fund.[2] not-for-profit organization established in 2011 to protect scientific research and researchers of climate science from think tanks and legal foundations that have taken legal action against scientific institutions and individual scientists.

Objectives of PEER[edit]

  • Organize a broad base of support among employees within local, state and federal resource management agencies.
  • Monitor natural resource management agencies by serving as a "watch dog" for the public interest.
  • Inform the administration, Congress, state officials, media and the public about substantive environmental issues of concern to PEER members.
  • Defend and strengthen the legal rights of public employees who speak out about issues concerning natural resource management and environmental protection. Provide free legal assistance if and when necessary.[3]

Campaigns[edit]

PEER maintains campaigns in leading environmental issues. Some of their work includes

EPA library closings[edit]

In 2006, the Environmental Protection Agency began to dismantle its network of technical libraries, an important resource for research, without Congressional approval. Upon learning of these closings, PEER brought them to the attention of Congress. Despite Congress’ recent order to reopening of the libraries, the EPA continues to limit and remove library resources.[4]

Arctic drilling debate[edit]

PEER has released e-mails and documents from current and former Interior scientists challenging the integrity of the environmental assessments of Arctic offshore oil development. These e-mails have been used to fuel lawsuits currently threatening to impede new lease sales.[5]

Off-road recreation damage[edit]

Off–road vehicle recreation, an activity growing in popularity, can devastate local wildlife growth and disrupt the environment. PEER and Rangers for Responsible Recreation are campaigning to draw attention to the growing threat posed by off-road vehicle misuse and to assist over matched state and federal land managers.[6]

Genetically engineered crops[edit]

In 2011 PEER participated in a lawsuit against the United States Fish and Wildlife Service for entering into agreements which had allowed Genetically Engineered (GE) crops to be planted on 54 U.S. national wildlife refuges. Co-plaintiffs in the suit were the Center for Food Safety and Beyond Pesticides.[7] The group also filed a lawsuit in 2012 against the White House under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) demanding release of an email the White House had received from Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), a lobbying firm which represents GE seed companies such as Monsanto. The Obama Administration had refused to release the email, claiming that doing so would reveal BIO’s lobbying strategies.[8]

Teresa Chambers[edit]

Former Chief of the United States Park Police, Teresa Chambers served for nearly 2 years before she was fired after revealing in an interview the potential dangers of their low staffing levels. PEER has provided Teresa legal defense and publicity for her appeal for reinstatement and for her wrongful firing lawsuit.[9]

PEER also maintains many campaigns in the following categories[edit]

  • Wildlife Protection
  • Public Lands
  • Land Use & Development
  • Public Health
  • Whistleblower Protection

Faith-based parks[edit]

PEER has worked to keep religious promotions out of public parks.

Grand Canyon National Park[edit]

The National Park Service in 2003 approved for sale in the Grand Canyon National Park bookstore Grand Canyon: A Different View: a book that presents the formation of the Grand Canyon as a result of Biblical events.[10] PEER exposed the selling of this book as preferential treatment of a religion that toes the line of constitutional legality.[11] On January 4, 2007 the National Park Service Chief of Public Affairs, David Barna released a response stating that the National Park Service neither uses the text in their teaching nor do they endorse its content. The release further states that the book is sold in the inspirational section of the bookstore which includes anthropological works on Native American culture.[12] As PEER contests, the inspirational section was only created after PEER had exposed the book’s sale as a natural history. The controversial book remains on sale.

The National Park Service has continued to delay the issuing of a pamphlet “Geologic Interpretive Programs: Distinguishing Science from Religion” which is meant to instruct park officials on how to respond to questions like those concerning biblical interpretations of the Grand Canyon.[13]

Mojave National Preserve[edit]

PEER board member, Frank Buono, along with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, filed a lawsuit to remove an 8-foot-tall (2.4 m) white cross displayed in the Mojave National Preserve.[14] The cross, which was originally erected in 1934 as a war memorial has since undergone many changes in appearance, including the loss of its plaque. It now stands as an 8-foot-tall (2.4 m) white cross serving occasionally as the site for Easter sunrise services.[15] Most recently, the order to remove the cross has been upheld by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit,[16] despite four appeals by the U.S. Justice Department. The cross now awaits removal, unless there is a fifth appeal by the Justice Department that could potentially bring the case to the Supreme Court.[17]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. [1] Accessed June 6, 2009.
  2. ^ New York Times, 25, Jan. 2011, "A Legal Defense Fund for Climate Scientists," http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/01/25/a-legal-defense-fund-for-climate-scientists/?src=recg
  3. ^ Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. [2] Accessed June 6, 2009.
  4. ^ "PEER Campaigns - EPA Library Closure - News". Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. Archived from the original on 2008-06-07. Retrieved 2008-07-16. 
  5. ^ "PEER Campaigns - Arctic Drilling - News". Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. Retrieved 2008-07-16. 
  6. ^ "PEER Campaigns - Off-Road Wreckreation - News". Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. Retrieved 2008-07-16. 
  7. ^ "Lawsuit To Halt GE Crops In All Midwest Refuges". Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. Retrieved 2011-11-02. 
  8. ^ "Civil Action No. 11-1583-RJ". U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Retrieved 2012-02-17. 
  9. ^ "PEER Campaigns - In the Chief's Corner - News". Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. Retrieved 2008-07-16. 
  10. ^ "Canyon Ministries - Grand Canyon: A Different View". Canyon Ministries. Retrieved 2008-07-16. 
  11. ^ "PEER - News - Religion on Display In National Parks". Public Employees for Environmental Resoponsibility. Retrieved 2008-07-16. 
  12. ^ David Barna Chief of Public Affairs National Park Service. "National Park Service Response Concerning the Grand Canyon" (PDF). Retrieved 2008-07-16. 
  13. ^ "PEER - News - Evolving Grand Canyon Position Leaves Unanswered Questions". Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. Retrieved 2008-07-16. 
  14. ^ "PEER - News - Fierce Battle to Keep Cross in National Park". Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. Retrieved 2008-07-16. 
  15. ^ Edds, Kimberly (2004-06-09). "WashingtonPost.com - Cross in Mojave Desert Preserve Barred". Washington Post. Retrieved 2009-06-06. 
  16. ^ "Ninth Circuit ruling in Buono v. Kempthorne". Retrieved 2009-06-06. 
  17. ^ "PEER - News - Last Stand for Mojave Cross?". Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. Retrieved 2008-07-16. 

External links[edit]