You are here

whistleblowers

Environmental Whistleblowing Toolkit

By staff - Protect, October 2023

What is the Toolkit?

Protect’s Environmental Whistleblowing Toolkit is a practical and legal guide to raising environmental concerns. Drafted with help from trade unions, lawyers, Non-Governmental Organisations and journalists, it offers guidance on whistleblowing in the workplace to help you raise concerns safely and with maximum impact.

The Toolkit includes information on what may constitute an environmental concern, practical guidance on how and where to raise environmental concerns and information on what legal rights you may have when raising environmental concerns.

Why speak up on environmental concerns?

Climate change has already caused irreversible damage to our planet and we hear daily about the risks of pollution to our rivers and waterways, greenwashing and loss of biodiversity. If we are to prevent further environmental damage, we need to use every tool in the box. Speaking up – or whistleblowing – is one of these tools.

By providing information and exposing wrongdoing, whistleblowers can help ensure that organisations are accountable for their climate impact and action is taken to prevent or mitigate environmental harm.

How can you use the Toolkit?

The Toolkit is designed to be a guide if you are thinking about blowing the whistle. It covers all topics and issues that you may need to think about when raising or escalating an environmental concern. The Toolkit is interactive and allows you to review the content that is most relevant to your situation. Whistleblowing can be risky and we would recommend that you seek advice from Protect’s free and confidential Advice Line before raising concerns.

Download a copy of this publication here (link).

A Whistleblowers Journey

UAlbany says PCB researcher may resume teaching on campus

By Brendan J. Lyons - Albany Times-Union, February 21, 2023

The university's announcement came nine months after Dr. David Carpenter was directed not to visit any campuses and to perform his duties from home.

ALBANY — The University at Albany late Tuesday said that Dr. David O. Carpenter, the longtime director of the school's Institute for Health and the Environment, will not face discipline and "is no longer on an alternate assignment and may now teach and conduct research on campus."

The university's announcement came as Carpenter received increasing support from environmental advocates to be reinstated after he was directed nine months ago not to visit any campuses and to perform his duties from home as the school investigated his extensive work testifying as an expert witness in toxic pollution cases.

"UAlbany’s investigation regarding Dr. Carpenter has concluded, and no discipline will be imposed based on such investigation," a university spokesman said in a statement. "As is standard, UAlbany and Dr. Carpenter also entered into a Conflict Management Plan to ensure future activities are carried out in compliance with all applicable laws and policies. UAlbany reiterates in the strongest possible terms our full commitment to unfettered academic freedom."

Carpenter became the subject of a disciplinary investigation last year after a Freedom of Information Law request was filed by an attorney with Shook Hardy & Bacon, a Missouri law firm that represents Monsanto Company in toxic pollution cases it has faced across the nation.

Carpenter, who said he donates the money he receives from his expert testimony to Ph.D. students and the university's research program, has testified against Monsanto in numerous "toxic tort" cases — in which plaintiffs allege injuries from toxic substances — that have yielded multi-million-dollar verdicts against the company.

In a statement issued Wednesday, Carpenter said he is "very happy that the university has concluded its investigation and announced that my work as an expert witness did not merit discipline."

Carpenter will be able to resume his outside work testifying as an expert witness in toxic pollution cases but will also sign a "conflict management plan to ensure future activities are carried out in compliance with all applicable laws and policies," the unversity said.

EPA union urges Minnesota Supreme Court to take up PolyMet case

By staff - Duluth News Tribune, March 10, 2022

DULUTH — The union representing many midwest employees of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have asked the Minnesota Supreme Court to take up a PolyMet case challenging the proposed copper-nickel mine's water permit.

The American Federation of Government Employees Local 704 and other groups filed briefs urging the court to reconsider a January decision by the Minnesota Court of Appeals affirming a 2020 decision by a State District Court judge who said the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency broke no laws or procedures by asking the EPA to keep comments on the permit private. It acknowledged such a move was made to prevent comments from reaching the public and leading to "bad press."

In 2019, AFGE Local 704 said it learned from a whistleblower that comments by the EPA Region 5 office in Chicago on a draft of PolyMet's National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, or NPDES, were left out of the public record.

“Simply put, when a government agency acts in secret — or deliberately obscures its motives or reasoning — it becomes difficult to tell whether the agency’s actions were lawful or fair," the union wrote in its brief.

EPA Officials Interfered with Chemical Safety Studies

By staff - Union of Concerned Scientists, February 17, 2022

What happened: Officials at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) directed agency staff to alter certain chemical safety studies in a way that downplayed the chemical’s health risks. EPA officials have pressured staff to alter hazard information, undermine research, and remove scientific information on potentially toxic chemicals.

Why it matters: By interfering with chemical safety studies, EPA officials undermined one of the major ways by which the federal government protects people from exposure to toxic chemicals. Not only does this action violate the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), but it also endangers the health and safety of communities across the US, especially underserved communities.

Officials at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are pressuring agency employees to tamper with the risk assessments of dozens of hazardous chemicals by excluding evidence of adverse health impacts. Reports of deleted language and major revisions in chemical risk assessments against the consent of agency scientists in response to higher management violates the rules and regulations as outlined by the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) of 1976 which states the EPA is required to uphold the “reporting, record-keeping, and testing requirements and restrictions relating to chemical substances and/or mixtures.”

Four EPA scientists who worked at the agency's Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention stated that they had experienced numerous incidents in which management and staff pressured them or their colleagues to alter risk assessments in a way that fell out of line with the best available scientific evidence. In a complaint submitted to the EPA inspector on behalf of the four scientists, these unauthorized interferences include deleted language identifying potential adverse effects of toxic chemicals, major revisions that alter the conclusions of a toxic chemical’s toxicity, and risk assessments being assigned to inexperienced employees to avoid pushback.

Protecting Workers Engaged In Protecting The Environment

A Letter and Action Plan for Racial Change at the California Air Resources Board

By various - Concerned Black Employees at CARB, September 4, 2020

Who We Are

We are a group of concerned Black employees at the California Air Resources Board (CARB). We are Millennials, Generation X’ers, and Baby Boomers, with individual years of experience ranging from 2 years to 30 years.

Why Are We Speaking Up?

The murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, began a long overdue nationwide discussion about race and the Black experience in the United States. Discussions are taking place every day around the nation, and the world, about the myriad of ways Black lives are under attack in every facet of life. We have written this letter and action plan as our contribution to these discussions. Our intention is to highlight systemic racism and implicit bias at CARB through sharing stories of our lived experiences. We have also included an action plan with concrete ways to begin the hard work of supporting and healing the wounds of Black employees at CARB. In many instances we may indicate “white”, but Black employees at CARB also experience discrimination from other non-Black people of color (POC). Our goal is not to shame or belittle CARB, or to assign blame. However, it is important to bring these issues into the light, so we can spread awareness, and address harmful behaviors, structures, and practices.

We hope our words will encourage deep reflection, growth, and meaningful transformation concerning the culture of white privilege in our workplace and our country. CARB and other government agencies are increasingly using terms like “equity”, “diversity”, and “environmental justice” without recognizing the importance of having a workforce that reflects these principles. We are speaking up because we believe that Black employees must play a critical role if CARB truly believes in the pursuit of equity, diversity, and environmental justice.

Read the text (PDF).

Exposing a Ticking Time Bomb: How fossil fuel industry fraud is setting us up for a financial implosion, and what whistleblowers can do about it

By John Kostyack, Karen Torrent, Laura Peterson, and Carly Fabian - National Whistleblower Center - July 2020

In the past several years, U.S. states, cities, counties and individuals concerned about climate change have filed important lawsuits against fossil fuel companies, asserting that the companies are responsible for climaterelated damage due to their carbon pollution. These cases confront “what might be the greatest scam in history,” in the words of historian Naomi Oreskes: the massive disinformation campaign designed to stall action on climate change by persuading decision makers and the public that it is not a problem to be taken seriously.

In this report, the National Whistleblower Center focuses on a related deception that, with a small handful of notable exceptions, is unaddressed in the climate change lawsuits filed to date: the dramatic understatement of risks posed by climate change to fossil fuel companies’ own financial condition and to the economy at large. We describe an important pathway to ensuring proper disclosures of climate risks: collaborative work by whistleblowers, prosecutors and regulators to enforce anti-fraud laws.

This report is a call to action for executives of fossil fuel companies and others with knowledge of improper accounting and disclosure practices, such as external auditors, to take the steps needed to obtain protected whistleblower status and work with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), other regulators and law enforcement officials to help expose and prosecute fraud. For the first time, legal strategies are provided for whistleblowers and others to expose and prosecute climate risk fraud in the fossil fuel industry. This is also the first report to use the methods of professional fraud investigators to identify fossil fuel industry financial disclosure practices that are likely to be fraudulent.

Climate risks—comprised of “transition risks,” the financial risks to some companies due to the world’s shift away from fossil fuels, and “physical risks,” those associated with climate change- related damage to property— uniquely threaten the finances of fossil fuel companies. Fossil fuel companies, fearful of losing access to investment capital and loans, are therefore highly motivated to conceal their exposure to these risks.

Concealment of climate risks is a matter of great public interest because when it is successful, it harms investors, the environment and the economy. Investors who provide capital to these companies suffer because they invest based on a false sense of the companies’ readiness for the transition to a low-carbon economy and for the physical shocks of climate change. This deception undercuts efforts to address climate change because it slows the shift of investments to businesses developing and deploying low-carbon technologies. It harms the economy by leaving financial institutions such as banks and insurers less prepared for the stresses of rapid asset deflation.

Read the report (PDF).

Farewell to FWS – Goodbye to Gag Orders

By Brian Czech - CASSE, February 2018

Open letter to FWS, sent directly to FWS employees on February 7, 2018:

Friends, colleagues, and past FWS co-workers,

I once considered the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to be the world leader in conservation, and was proud to sign on! But that was a long time ago: 1999 to be precise. Today, something is awry at FWS headquarters, and that’s what drove me to retire on October 31. Within the leadership ranks of the National Wildlife Refuge System, especially, ethical lapses have led to corrupt tendencies. The mission has suffered and careers have been impacted; none more than mine, which was perennially crippled by gag orders.

The prohibited topic? The trade-off between economic growth and wildlife conservation, also known as the “800-pound gorilla.” The trade-off was the focus of my Ph.D. research in the 1990’s, when I documented the causes of species endangerment as a who’s who of the American economy. I presented these causes in Science, elaborated in Bioscience, and detailed the sociopolitical context in a book on the Endangered Species Act.

The gag orders were ironic, because my background on the 800-pound gorilla was one of the reasons FWS hired me to begin with. As the first “conservation biologist” for the National Wildlife Refuge System, I was told to “think big,” “long term,” and “outside the box.” Beginning in 2001, though, I was strung along by Refuge System chiefs who said “It has to be talked about, but now is not the time.” I waited patiently for the right time to come, occasionally re-testing the waters and invariably getting re-gagged.

While the gag orders started in 2001, the harshest one was issued in 2011 while a previous director awaited his Senate confirmation hearings. I was prohibited from saying “anything having to do with economics.” Another ham-handed order was issued in 2016 as the presidential primaries heated up. All the orders – along with reprimands, suspensions, and various other forms of coercion – were designed to buffer appointees, chiefs, and deputies who were petrified by the politics of economic growth. Such abject fear belied the talents of one appointee who boasted, “I can drink politics with a firehose.”

Not all FWS or DOI programs are inclined to evade the topic. Rather, a clique of Refuge System chiefs has squashed every reasonable effort to raise public awareness of the trade-off between growth and conservation. Now we are paying for this lack of awareness across the landscape.

Lest anyone think the gag orders reflected a technical disagreement, I quote a long-time Refuge System chief: “Everybody knows there’s a conflict between economic growth and wildlife conservation. It’s just not our role to talk about it.” Thankfully such shirking doesn’t infect every agency. Imagine the Surgeon General acquiescing, “Everybody knows smoking causes cancer. It’s just not our role to talk about it.”

Furthermore, the chief was off-base with “everybody knows,” unless he considered “everybody” to be FWS, where we’ve all witnessed the growing economy usurping, eroding, or polluting habitats. He failed to acknowledge the widespread misinformation outside FWS. Politicians, seeking to appease, mislead the public with, “There is no conflict between growing the economy and protecting the environment.”

The gag orders weren’t politically affiliated, either. The win-win rhetoric of “no conflict” was common to Democratic and Republican administrations alike. It was patently false in a bipartisan way, “everybody knew it” (at least in FWS), and sound science had refuted it. Yet to this day the win-win rhetoric constantly re-appears in public forums from the local town hall to the halls of Congress. It attracts wishful followers of all kinds, enough of them to keep economic growth atop the pedestal of domestic policy.

If the gag orders stemmed from neither technical disagreement nor political fealty, then why were they issued? In my opinion the answer is an indictment of an agency gone astray.

EPA Forces Staff to Attend Anti-Leak Classes as Attack on Environment Continues

By Jessica Corbett - Common Dreams, September 21, 2017

As the Trump administration continues to gut regulations meant to protect public health and the environment, the Associated Press reports Thursday that Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) staffers are being forced to attend anti-leaking classes this week as part of a wider effort by the White House to stem the flow of unauthorized information reaching the public.

The AP, which obtained training materials from the Environmental Protection Agency's hour-long anti-leaking class, reports how "a three-page fact sheet sent to EPA employees as part of the training warned that leaks of even unclassified information could have serious consequences to national security."

The document reportedly provided examples detailing how government secrets previously have been revealed through espionage, hacking, or leaks to the press, and noted that "enemies of the United States are relentless in their pursuit of information which they can exploit to harm U.S. interests."

The mandatory anti-leak training follows Attorney General Jeff Sessions' announcment last month that the Justice Department was launching an intense war on leaks, and planned to investigate and possibly prosecute government employees who share unauthorized information. Sessions' comments, as Common Dreams reported, were immediately denounced by press freedom groups, journalists, and civil libertarians as "a direct attack on the First Amendment."

Though leaks have been a part of all presidencies in recent memory, since the beginning, "the Trump White House has gushed," and multiple federal agencies—concerned about the long-term consequences of the administration's policies—have followed suit, including the EPA.

The agency has made headlines in recent months for being too cozy with the fossil fuel industry and purging federal scientists, which has reportedly spurred internal strife at the EPA and even provoked some staff to publicly resign in protest. In April, the EPA removed pages about climate change from its website.

And while the Trump administration attempts to suppress important information as it champions deregulation efforts, many of its moves to cut environmental protections have been blatant and public.

Pages

The Fine Print I:

Disclaimer: The views expressed on this site are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) unless otherwise indicated and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s, nor should it be assumed that any of these authors automatically support the IWW or endorse any of its positions.

Further: the inclusion of a link on our site (other than the link to the main IWW site) does not imply endorsement by or an alliance with the IWW. These sites have been chosen by our members due to their perceived relevance to the IWW EUC and are included here for informational purposes only. If you have any suggestions or comments on any of the links included (or not included) above, please contact us.

The Fine Print II:

Fair Use Notice: The material on this site is provided for educational and informational purposes. It may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. It is being made available in an effort to advance the understanding of scientific, environmental, economic, social justice and human rights issues etc.

It is believed that this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have an interest in using the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. The information on this site does not constitute legal or technical advice.