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Eye Opener: Is EPA silencing Obama critics?

By Ed O'Keefe

Eye Opener

Updated 4:44 p.m. ET

Happy Tuesday! The Environmental Protection Agency has ordered two agency attorneys to remove a YouTube video they produced that criticizes climate change legislation backed by the Obama administration.

Laurie Williams and Allan Zabel, who are married and live in San Francisco, received clearance from EPA to post the video, but were told they could mention their EPA employment only once. Agency officials ordered the couple to take down the video last Friday, saying it violated agency policy.

But Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility says the agency reversed course only after The Washington Post published an op-ed by Williams and Zabel.

"The House and Senate climate bills are not a first step in the right direction," the couple wrote in The Post on Oct. 31. "They would give away valuable rights in cap-and-trade permits and create a trillion-dollar carbon-offsets market that will not lead to needed reductions."

"EPA is abusing ethics rules to gag two conscientious employees who have every right to speak out as citizens," PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch said in a statement. Ruch re-posted the original video and its script on the PEER Web site. "EPA reversed itself because someone in headquarters had a tantrum about their Washington Post essay." Ruch also notes that Williams and Zabel clearly stated that they were expressing their views as private citizens and not as EPA employees.

In a statement, EPA General Counsel Scott Fulton told the New York Times that “EPA has nearly 18,000 employees and all of them are free to -- and many do -- publicly express their views on issues of the day."

“The only requirement is that employees adhere to the government’s ethical regulations, which are in place to ensure that EPA and other agencies maintain the highest possible ethical standards at all times," Fulton said.

The couple does not face disciplinary action since they made efforts to remove the video. But it's not clear how PEER's decision to re-post the video will impact the couple.

UPDATE: Read more on this situation from The Post's David A. Fahrenthold

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Cabinet and Staff News: The Obama administration is sending diplomat Stephen W. Bosworth to North Korea for talks. Earl Devaney says that embarrassment will lead to improvements.

More Obama Nominees Announced: The president taps Joshua Gotbaum to serve as director of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation; Raul Perea-Henze to serve as assistant secretary of policy and planning at the Department of Veterans Affairs; Carrie Hessler Radelet to serve as deputy director of the Peace Corps; Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe to serve as U.S. representative to the U.N. Human Rights Council; and Laura Kennedy to serve as U.S. representative to the Conference on Disarmament. Track all of Obama's nominees with The Post's Head Count.

OMB Step Challenge Winners: Director Peter Orszag blogs that employee James Laity won the first month of the OMB Step Challenge. Laity took 894,098 steps in October, beating Orszag by more than a half a million steps. The best OMB team was the Natural Resources Division, with an average of 261,143 steps.

HHS use of funds for health reform campaign falls into question: A department web campaign could be interpreted as violating three restrictions on the use of congressionally appropriated funding, according to an analysis released last week in response to concerns from a Republican senator.

Border arrests decline again: The Obama administration will use evidence of tougher border enforcement as part of its strategy to win support for a congressional overhaul of the U.S. immigration system next year.

FHA's reserve fund hits 7-year low: Senior officials assure Congress that the agency will not need a bailout, a politically sensitive scenario.

Financial overhaul lets SEC fund itself: A new Senate bill is expected to mark a starting point for negotiations with the House and the White House on how to rework financial oversight.

EPA sends greenhouse gases finding to White House: The agency has sent its final scientific finding on greenhouse gases to the White House, which could trigger regulation of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases as pollutants under the Clean Air Act.

NASA on a crusade to debunk 2012 apocalypse myths: It's a rare campaign by the space agency to dispel widespread rumors fueled by the Internet and a new Hollywood movie.

Eighth defendant guilty of passport file snooping at State Dept.: Susan Holloman, 58, of Washington, pleaded guilty to one count of unauthorized computer access.

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By Ed O'Keefe  | November 10, 2009; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Agencies and Departments, Eye Opener  
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I never like to hear a manager is silencing an employee in government. Politically I understand the motivation. An insider's criticism of policy gives the other side a powerful argument against support of the policy--but I never like the idea of not having access to the thoughts of persons in government.

Posted by: cmckeonjr | November 10, 2009 7:55 AM | Report abuse

I believe these two people are obviously correct. I doubt however if Obama's "Goldman Sachs" government will even consider such a thing.

You must realize that the Banking Cartel Families are IN CONTROL. They are heavy investors in dirty energy.

American people have no say. Their vote counts for nothing. No money will be invested because the Banks don't care if they destroy the planet or not. They search simply to accumulate all the wealth in the world for themselves and have already discussed, since the time of Nixon, solving energy problems and environmental problems by simply killing 3 Billion of Earth's current population.

From a statistical point of view this would obviously reduce emissions and pollution. Apparently, the only thing that has stopped such slaughter is their inability to find an efficient and cheap way to get all this murder accomplished. Obviously they don't wish to pay union wages for such work.

So to the two brave lawyers, bravo and kudos. But, in a corrupt regime, run by the Banking Cartel Families, your professional future probably doesn't exist anymore.

to learn why what I have just written is NOT fiction, see :

Arron Russo's film "America : Freedom to Fascism"

Posted by: vcompton1 | November 10, 2009 9:54 AM | Report abuse

So, Like, for a long time. The EPA has worked so hard to make America and the World an inhospitable place for humans to be; let alone work and live. The Earth was created for the man and not man for the Earth. Even the Korean indicates that.
The EPA has been around for a long time, 50 years or so. Through tight security and often lies has structured the landscape and overseen the money that has changed hands to get land use approvals. They are robber barrons playing like they are the good guys.

Posted by: jackolantyrn356 | November 11, 2009 1:02 PM | Report abuse

The entire climate change hoax that has been perpetrated upon an uneducated citizenry is shameful. Al Gore stands to make millions if not billions from the fear mongering he brandishes like a sword. He makes brazen, false statements, and we, as a nation, stand to pay hundreds of billions of dollars for something that will do not good, because global warming has been going on for billions of years.

Posted by: bobhayes3613 | November 12, 2009 11:19 AM | Report abuse

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