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Science adviser grilled over altered testimony

The president’s science adviser tells senators that he recommended changes in a health official’s global warming testimony — but denies wanting entire pages cut.
Image: John Marburger
John Marburger serves as science adviser to President Bush and director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy.Matthew Cavanaugh / Getty Images file
/ Source: The Associated Press

The president’s science adviser said Wednesday that he recommended some changes in global warming testimony by the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention but denied he wanted entire pages cut.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., told John Marburger, head of the president’s Office of Science and Technology, that the White House had blamed him for deleting all or part of eight pages of the 14-page draft. Boxer heads the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which heard from CDC chief Julie Gerberding on Oct. 24.

“We were one of a number of commentators on the testimony and we did recommended changes,” Marburger said when pressed by Boxer at a hearing. “We did not recommend wiping out eight pages of it.”

After Gerberding’s appearance last month, The Associated Press obtained a copy of her original draft testimony. It showed that at least six pages, focusing on specific health impacts in detail, had been removed during a review by the White House’s budget office.

White House press secretary Dana Perino said afterward that Marburger and his staff had raised concerns the testimony was out of line with a report by the U.N. panel of scientists studying global warming.

“Did you redact those pages,” Boxer asked Marburger during a hearing Wednesday on global warming by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. Marburger said he had not.

Boxer, citing Perino’s comments, told Marburger that he, nevertheless, was being blamed.

“My office participated in a process that is run by the Office of Management and Budget,” Marburger said.

He noted that at the time, “because of a sharp media reaction” to the changes made in Gerberding’s testimony, he had issued a statement outlining some changes he had recommended.

“Those were small edits. Those could have been changed with one or two words,” Boxer said. “Someone redacted six pages.”

At the hearing Wednesday, Marburger acknowledged the seriousness of risks of the global warming. “I believe there is an urgency to begin to solve this problem,” he said.

Boxer’s committee has scheduled a vote in the first week of December on a bill that, for the first time, would establish limits on heat-trapping greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere.

The full Senate is expected to take up the legislation next year; prospects of passing Congress are uncertain.

President Bush has said that global warming needs to be addressed. He opposes mandatory limits on greenhouse gases, saying that voluntary measures and development of new technologies can lead to a reduction in carbon dioxide, a product of burning fossil fuels, and other greenhouse emissions.