Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, environmental protection organization that serves as a resource to potential government whistleblowers, allowing them to anonymously expose environmental wrongdoings thereby avoiding 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 law suits. PEER also serves to provide legal services to whistleblowers who find themselves the target of agency retaliation.

Campaigns

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

EPA Library Closings

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. [cite web|url=http://www.peer.org/campaigns/publichealth/epa_library/news.php|title=PEER Campaigns - EPA Library Closure - News|publisher=Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility|accessdate=2008-07-16]

Arctic Drilling Debate

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. [cite web|url=http://www.peer.org/campaigns/publiclands/arctic/index.php|title=PEER Campaigns - Arctic Drilling - News|publisher=Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility|accessdate=2008-07-16]


=Off-Road Recreation Da

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. [cite web|url=http://www.peer.org/campaigns/publiclands/orv/index.php|title=PEER Campaigns - Off-Road Wreckreation - News|publisher=Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility|accessdate=2008-07-16]

Teresa Chambers

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. [cite web|url=http://www.peer.org/campaigns/whistleblower/chiefchambers/news.php|title=PEER Campaigns - In the Chief's Corner - News|publisher=Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility|accessdate=2008-07-16]

PEER also maintains many campaigns in all of the following categories

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

Faith-Based Parks

In an effort to maintain the constitutional separation between church and state, PEER has worked to keep the Christian faith out of public parks.

Grand Canyon National Park

The National Park Service in 2003 approved for sale in the Grand Canyon National Park bookstore ; a book that presents the formation of the Grand Canyon as a result of Biblical events. [cite web|url=http://www.canyonministries.com/content/view/40/68/|title=Canyon Ministries - Grand Canyon: A Different View|publisher=Canyon Ministries|accessdate=2008-07-16] PEER exposed the selling of this book as preferential treatment of a religion that toes the line of constitutional legality. [cite web|url=http://www.peer.org/news/news_id.php?row_id=319|title=PEER - News - Religion on Display In National Parks|publisher=Public Employees for Environmental Resoponsibility|accessdate=2008-07-16] 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. [cite web|url=http://www.peer.org/docs/nps/07_16_1_canyon_response.pdf|author=David Barna Chief of Public Affairs National Park Service|title=National Park Service Response Concerning the Grand Canyon|accessdate=2008-07-16] However, as PEER contests, the inspirational section was only created after PEER had exposed the book’s sale as a natural history. Along with the sale of the controversial book, 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. [cite web|url=http://www.peer.org/news/news_id.php?row_id=805|title=PEER - News - Evolving Grand Canyon Position Leaves Unanswered Questions|publisher=Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility|accessdate=2008-07-16]

Mojave National Preserve

PEER board member, Frank Buono, along with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, filed a lawsuit to remove an eight foot tall white cross displayed in the Mojave National Preserve. [cite web|url=http://www.peer.org/news/news_id.php?row_id=196|title=PEER - News - Fierce Battle to Keep Cross in National Park|publisher=Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility|accessdate=2008-07-16] 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 eight foot tall white cross serving occasionally as the site for Easter sunrise services. [cite web|url=http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A26255-2004Jun8.html|title=WashingtonPost.com - Cross in Mojave Desert Preserve Barred|publisher=Washington Post|accessdate=2008-07-16] Most recently, the order to remove the cross has been upheld by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [cite web|url=http://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/ca9/newopinions.nsf/BB97EAC2BE7F28BA882574490054FCF6/$file/0555852.pdf?openelement|title=Ninth Circuit ruling in Buono v. Kempthorne|accessdate=2008-07-16] , 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. [cite web|url=http://www.peer.org/news/news_id.php?row_id=1053|title=PEER - News - Last Stand for Mojave Cross?|publisher=Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility|accessdate=2008-07-16]

Criticism

An article in the Wednesday, January 10th, 2007 edition of eSkeptic, an online newsletter of the Skeptics Society, asserted that the Bush administration was not allowing park rangers at Grand Canyon National Park to mention that the Grand Canyon was more than a few thousand years old. It supported its claim from a quote by PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch as saying: "In order to avoid offending religious fundamentalists, our National Park Service is under orders to suspend its belief in geology." [cite news | url=http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/07-01-10.html | title=Creationism in Our National Parks | publisher=Skeptic | date=January 10th, 2007 | first=Donald | last=Prothero | accessdate = 2008-04-10] A week later, Skeptics Society Executive Director Michael Shermer published a retraction in the January 17th, 2007 edition of eSkeptic ("Fact Checking 101"). In fact, Shermer stated that readers had found the claim to be "absolutely false" and "were outraged by both the duplicity of the claim and our failure to fact check it." A park ranger wrote: "I have NEVER been told to present non-science based programs." Shermer tells how he contacted PEER director Jeff Ruch to inquire about the evidence to support PEER's claim but was "given a run-around". Shermer's conclusion: "...I believe we were duped by an activist group who at the very least exaggerated a claim and published it in order to gain notoriety for itself, or worse, simply made it up ... shame on PEER, for this egregious display of poor judgment and unethical behavior." [cite news | url=http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/07-01-17.html | title=Fact Checking 101 | publisher=Skeptic | date=January 17th, 2007 | first=Michael | last=Shermer | accessdate = 2008-04-10]

In fact, PEER has never stated that the National Park Service employees were ordered to present “non-science” based information. [cite web|url=http://www.peer.org/news/news_id.php?row_id=801|title=PEER - News - How Old Is the Grand Canyon? Park Service Won't Say|publisher=Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility|accessdate=2008-07-16] The Grand Canyon: A Different View still remains for sale in the Grand Canyon Park bookstore, and the pamphlet, “Geologic Interpretive Programs: Distinguishing Science from Religion” is still awaiting approval. [cite web|url=http://www.peer.org/news/news_id.php?row_id=805|title=PEER - News - Evolving Grand Canyon Position Leaves Unanswered Questions|publisher=Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility|accessdate=2008-07-16]

References

External links

* [http://www.peer.org Official website]


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