Yesterday Public Employees for Environmental Protection released a "petition" signed by the presidents of 22 union locals of EPA employees calling on Congress to take action on global climate change. The letter, addressed to Congress, reads in part:
The climate changes we are witnessing are those that are largely due to human behavior. Therefore, we ask that a prudent environmental policy be put in place to take every reasonable step to abate and control GHG emissions. The voluntary and incentive-based programs to encourage the reduction in GHG emissions are not enough. We request that Congressional Leaders not only support a vigorous program of enforcement and reduction in GHG emissions, but also support research programs aimed at abating global warming through direct, cost-effective technological intervention (e.g., geo-engineering), while at the same time supporting policies and regulations that reduce GHG emission sources, in line with the principles of the Kyoto Protocol.PEER says the letter's release was timed to conicide with the oral arguments in Massachusetts v. EPA. Yet other than the general subject matter -- global warming -- the letter has little to do with the case. While the signatories clearly advocate greater action on climate change, they've addressed themselves to Congress, caling for legislative action. Nowhere does the letter suggest that the EPA already has the legal authority to take the sorts of regulatory measures they support. To the contrary, the letter suggests that EPA's primary authority only extends to "voluntary" measures and energy conservation measures, as opposed to mandatory emission controls.
PEER also engages in a bit of overstatement in its effort to sell the story. For instance, PEER's release calls the letter a "petition" signed by "representatives for more than 10,000 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency scientists." Yet the letter itself notes that the signatories represent "over 10,000 United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) environmental engineers, environmental scientists, environmental protection specialists and support staff." Characterizing all of these employees as "scientists" creates a much different impression than does acknowledging that those represented by the sigantories include "support staff" and others without scientific or technical training. Presumably the opinions of agency acientists would carry more weight on the urgency of climate change than that of others.