Top CDC Climate Scientist Files Whistleblower Complaint
WASHINGTON – Dr. George Luber, one of the federal government’s top experts on the health impacts of climate change is seeking whistleblower protection due to retaliation he claims he’s faced since speaking out against the Trump administration’s efforts to end climate research.
Trump, a climate change skeptic, pulled the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Accord and has steadily reduced federal research carried out by the Environmental Protection Agency and other departments since taking office in January 2017.
Luber, an epidemiologist, was head of the Climate and Health Program at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention until the office was eliminated last year.
In a petition filed Friday with the U.S. Office of Special Council, he claims he’s since been prevented from speaking publicly about climate change and can’t even enter the CDC campus in Atlanta without getting prior permission.
Luber is asking the Office of Special Council to grant him whistleblower status. If it is granted, the office will open an investigation into the administration’s alleged unlawful treatment of the scientist.
“The CDC is engaging in a relentless campaign to retaliate against a public critic of its efforts to dismantle its climate and health program,” said Kevin Bell, a staff attorney with Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, the nonprofit representing Luber. “As our climate spins out of control, bureaucrats eager to please the Trump Administration have worked feverishly to destroy the reputations of climate scientists who stand in its way.”
In a written statement released in December, Luber and Bell detailed some of the actions that have allegedly been taken again him.
In February 2017, it says, the CDC cancelled, over Luber’s objections, a symposium he was slated to host featuring Al Gore. He was then allegedly directed to stop using the phrase “climate change” and forbidden from responding to any further media or congressional inquiries.
In March 2018, the statement said, the CDC revoked his badge, phone, and credentials, placing him on a BOLO (be on the lookout) list as a security risk, barring him from entering the facility except under armed guard and with prior approval, and then only to retrieve materials.
“Every time he goes to his office, Dr. Luber and his car are thoroughly searched in front of his colleagues,” the statement said.
Then, Luber said, in October 2018, CDC Environmental Health Center Director Patrick Breysse –the same official who allegedly ordered Luber to stop using the term “climate change” — proposed his removal based upon an alleged failure to obtain permission to author a 2015 book, give lectures at Emory University, and more than 30 other charges.
Luber provided a detailed refutation of all these charges concerning which he was never previously interviewed. In his prior 16 years at CDC, Dr. Luber has had a spotless record, his attorney said.
In December, after a reporter made inquiries, Breysse abruptly rescinded the removal.
In an email to Luber informing him of the decision, Breysse said, “After reading your response and thoughtful consideration, I will rescind the ‘proposal for removal’ memo and provide you with a new notice of disciplinary or adverse action in the future.”
“It is concerning that the very serious public health concerns stemming from climate change have been removed from the CDC agenda,” said Bell, noting that this May Luber received the First Amendment Award from the Hugh M. Hefner Foundation for his undiminished activism on the issue.
“Our nation’s need to confront inconvenient truths, such as those being uncovered by Dr. Luber, has never been greater,” Bell said.
A CDC spokesperson said the agency does not comment on personnel matters.