Under a new proposal, the White House would decide what and when the public would be told about an outbreak of mad cow disease, an anthrax release, a nuclear plant accident or any other crisis. The White House Office of Management and Budget is trying to gain final control over release of emergency declarations from the federal agencies responsible for public health, safety and the environment.
The OMB also wants to manage scientific and technical evaluations – known as peer reviews – of all major government rules, plans, proposed regulations and pronouncements. Currently, each federal agency controls its emergency notifications and peer review of its projects. . .
On Friday, a nonpartisan group of 20 former top agency officials sent a letter to the OMB asking the White House watchdog agency to withdraw its proposal, saying it “could damage the federal system for protecting public health and the environment.” One of the signers, David Michaels, said: “It goes beyond just having the White House involved in picking industry favorites to evaluate government science. Under this proposal, the carefully crafted process used by the government to notify the public of an imminent danger is going to first have to be signed off by someone weighing the political hazards.”