Many of the best things we do at PEER, we cannot talk about. Working behind the scenes, we have saved the careers of hundreds of conscientious public servants, often by talking them out of publicly blowing the whistle and convincing them to work through PEER instead to expose a problem.
Looking at just the past year of 2016, here are ten things we can talk about in which PEER is proud to have made significant progress in safeguarding public health, protecting wildlife, conserving public resources or securing freedom of speech —
- Went to federal court and won an order directing a clean-up of toxic levels of PCBs in Malibu public schools to end harmful exposures to schoolchildren and teachers.
- Won a major legal victory in a federal court ruling quashing “depredation” orders under which tens of thousands of double-crested cormorants are killed each year in 24 states east of the Mississippi. As a result, the twenty-year legal regime of indiscriminately shooting these aquatic fish-eating birds has come to an end. This is part of our larger campaign to end taxpayer support of misguided and ineffective predator control programs.
- Negotiated new safeguards for fracking operations, including disclosure of ingredients, heightened testing and safe discharge disposal. These changes, secured in EPA permits issued to operators on Wyoming’s Wind River Indian Reservation, set precedent throughout the West where surface discharge of so-called “produced water” is allowed.
- Our work stimulated a presidential directive to begin a risk assessment on chemical exposure of children on playgrounds from synthetic turf composed of shredded tires. [Watch appearance by PEER’s Jeff Ruch on ESPN that prompted President Obama to act]
- Exposed and ended illegal diversion into the hands of irrigators of federal funds earmarked to help drought-stressed Klamath Basin fish populations. In addition, we sparked a larger investigation of improper payment of millions in federal aid for improving fish habitat to support California’s controversial proposed Delta Tunnel Project which would work to the detriment of fish and wildlife.
- Prompted the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to adopt rules protecting National Wildlife Refuges from damage by oil and gas drilling. Sparked by a PEER rulemaking petition, the rules require drilling operators now on more than 200 refuges to have approved spill prevention and response plans, to post bonds covering reclamation costs, to follow proper waste disposal practices, and to minimize surface impacts.
- Stopped a scheme to permanently keep a herd of imported bison-cattle hybrids (catalo) now damaging Grand Canyon’s fragile North Rim. We also blocked an attempted give-away of the National Bison Range, considered the Crown Jewel of our wildlife refuge system.
- Unmasked illegal defacement of the Trail of Tears Historic Trail and the efforts by the U.S. Forest Service to hide its culpability. In consultation with the tribes who regard the land as sacred, the Forest Service is now beginning to restore the damage it did. Another whistleblower triggered an investigation through PEER confirming that a huge trove of Native American human remains and artifacts dug up in federal irrigation projects sit in boxes in violation of a law requiring they be inventoried and repatriated. The responsible agency is pledging to remedy this dereliction.
- Forced the Bureau of Land Management to release internal figures indicating that vast expanses of the Sagebrush West remain in degraded conditions due to excessive livestock grazing. BLM also admitted that on millions of overgrazed acres “no appropriate action has been taken to ensure significant progress toward meeting” its own minimum standards for water quality, vegetation and soils, as well as the ability to support wildlife. This development undergirds PEER’s Grazing Reform campaign.
- Secured stream and wetland restorations in the Cumberland River and other watersheds of Tennessee through a series of Clean Water Act lawsuits faulting developers and that state’s Department of Transportation for forgoing mitigation measures required in their permits.
On an ongoing basis, we make robust use of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) litigation program. Guided by insider sources, PEER operates a wide-ranging transparency program powered by one of the most robust FOIA litigation practices in the country.