Extraordinary Year, Extraordinary Challenges
For many public employees, 2020 was a year of adjustment – from working from home to maintaining a constant vigilance to keep family safe and healthy. At the same time, many public employees saw program and job cuts, and their work overly politicized. In federal environmental agencies, workers have had to defend their missions from constant assaults by a hostile administration.
During this extraordinary year, PEER is proud to have worked directly with our members and supporters to protect public employees and our environment. Despite many challenges, together, we worked to:
- Protect schoolteachers, inspectors, and other essential workers from needless exposure to COVID-19.
- Defend climate scientists and climate science from suppression, not only at the federal level but in state agencies as well.
- Expose the public health risk of undisclosed pesticide ingredients, showing that millions of acres are being sprayed with PFAS – “forever chemicals” – through regulatory loopholes we are striving to close.
- Reclaim the skies over national parks from incessant noisy air tours. A PEER court victory forces the FAA and the National Park Service to establish long-overdue rules governing the number, routes, and schedules of helicopter and fixed-wing park tourist overflights for 23 parks in 15 states, including Mount Rushmore, Everglades, Bryce Canyon, Arches, Great Smoky Mountains, Glacier, Golden Gate, Lake Mead, and Point Reyes National Seashore.
- Wage an effort to remove illegal Trump appointments made in violation of the Federal Vacancies Reform Act and have their actions declared null and void. Our efforts inspired similar suits resulting in a judicial ruling nullifying pernicious initiatives of the Trump agenda.
- Fight to block ill-advised curtailment of the internationally recognized Sea Turtle Science and Recovery Program at Padre Island National Seashore. We are pushing back against limits on rescuing stranded sea turtles and on beach patrols to protect sea turtle eggs and hatchlings – these limits will result in many needless sea turtle deaths. PEER is representing Dr. Donna Shaver, who runs the program.
- Trace the growing footprint of PFAS “forever chemicals” in ground and surface waters, seafood and wildlife, as well as in products, such as artificial turf, responsible for increased stealth pollution. PEER is pursuing a comprehensive PFAS reform program.
- Help a whistleblower document that, for decades, the US Army Corps of Engineers has systematically failed to assess the eco-consequences of its dams, reservoirs, and hatcheries in the Pacific Northwest. This lack of meaningful oversight has seriously damaged the Willamette, Columbia, and Rogue River watersheds by decimating federally protected fish populations; spawning hazardous algae bloom outbreaks; spreading invasive species; contaminating surface water with arsenic, mercury, and toxic elements from residual stockpiles; and aggravating adverse effects of climate change.
- Through litigation, force the adoption of a long-overdue regulation requiring public release of information detailing chemicals released by industrial accidents and requiring the provision of vital information to communities and first responders so they can respond to chemical fires, explosions, and leaks. This legal victory is one step in a larger PEER effort to strengthen moribund U.S. industrial safety policies.
- Sue to prevent extinction of the Louisiana Black Bear, known as “Teddy’s bear,” from hunting and interbreeding with other, introduced bear subspecies.
- Block an NRC plan to deregulate disposal of much of the nation’s radioactive waste. This radical and disastrous move would have allowed decommissioned reactors – everything but the spent fuel rods – to be dumped into neighborhood landfills;
- Block a scheme to end the clean–up of the highly contaminated site of Santa Susana Field Laboratory near Los Angeles, by having the entire site added to the National Register of Historic Places; and,
- Expose scientific fraud within NOAA, which is contributing to the looming extinction of the North Atlantic Right Whale, the most endangered marine mammal on the planet. NOAA is failing to protect the whale from entanglements with fishing lines and gear.
Besides these achievements, we continued to render direct assistance to scores of confidential whistleblowers and internal activists. We robustly used Freedom of Information Act litigation as part of a wide-ranging transparency program guided by insider sources. Through these and other methods, we help public servants exercise their Free Speech rights to communicate concerns to their true employers – you, the public.
During this time of transition to a new year and a new Administration, we will continue to work to improve our quality of life, protect our natural heritage and a livable climate for future generations, and support our public servants throughout the country. Thank you for your work and your continued support of PEER.
The PEER Team