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E-M:/ PEER: A voice for public employees!

Enviro-Mich message from anne.woiwode@sfsierra.sierraclub.org


Below is information about what may be one of the most important environmental
organizations in the country right now -- an organization that helps agency
staff who want to protect the environment and keep their jobs do just that.
The founder of PEER, Jeff DeBonis, founded a similar organization of
Forest Service employees, AFSEEE, several years ago, and it has been a
terrific asset in changing the culture of that agency.

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is a non-profit
national organization that formed a couple of years ago to help employees of
local, state or federal government agencies speak up about abuses or neglect
of the environmental laws within their agencies, while not exposing themselves
to the risk of losing their jobs. Their presence is long overdue in Michigan,
and fortunately it appears that at the initiative of state employees a chapter
is forming here.

Anyone who thinks that this kind of stuff doesn't happen in Michigan needs
only look to the case of Donald Sheff in Macomb County, who was fired from his
job after reporting his township for dumping raw sewage into Clinton Creek.
While investigation is underway by the State Police and Macomb County
prosecutor's office, Mr. Sheff has been forced to hire an attorney to try to
recover his job. He was just trying to do the right thing, and it cost him his

Here are some excerpts from PEER's newsletter about their membership services:

"Being a 'peer' means a government employee who is working to change his or
her agency for the better.  Using PEER as a vehicle, employees can safely and
effectively become anonymous activists for environmental protection....
PEER's job is to provide representational services to public employees, those
in trouble and those who are fed up with agency abuses.  PEER is essentially a
'service' organization for resource professionals."

Among the services they provide are:

Free legal help: members can receive "free legal counseling from attorneys
specializing in whistleblower protections, First Amendment rights, and civil
service laws."

Pen-Pal privileges: "At absolutely no cost, a "peer" can use the organization
to address issues inside his or her agency through official channels and in
the light of day -- while remaining safely anonymous, of course.  PEER firmly
believes that our employee members are the brains and we're just the
stationery." PEER can prepare and enter FOIA's, permit protests, and other
administrative filings "which keep the agency honest."

PEER Pressure: Strategic support, and training in media outreach, publishing
services for white papers exposing the issues of concern and press outreach to
distribute these documents, and a variety of other support services.

Nongovernment employees are also welcomed as members in support of their

In terms of their effectiveness, PEER has already been making significant
headway in reversing the war against the environment being waged in too many
state and federal agencies.  A report issued last fall cites and documents the
failure of the US Fish and Wildlife Service to list new endangered or
threatened species despite overwhelming scientific evidence from their staff
to proceed.  Using confidential surveys of employees in Florida's DEP, PEER
members produced a report documenting that the top state officials were
conducting a "deliberate campaign to obstruct and subvert" wetlands protection
laws. Chapters in Connecticut, Virginia, and Montana, and within federal
agencies have been changing the debate about environmental issues in their
arenas by getting the facts out. 

If you want to contact PEER, their phone number in Washington DC is
202-265-7337, address is 2001 S Street NW, # 570, Washington, D.C. 20009,
website is http://www.peer.org, and email is info@peer.org .  Memberships
that "the names and addresses of all PEER members are strictly confidential.
We do not sell, trade, or disclose the names of our members for any reason."

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