Laurie Williams and husband Alan Zabel worked as lawyers for the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, in its San Francisco office for more than 20 years, and they know more about climate change than most politicians. But when the couple released a video on the Internet expressing their concerns over the Obama administration’s plans to use cap-and-trade legislation to fight climate change, they were told to keep it to themselves.
Williams and Zabel oppose cap and trade -- a controversial government allowance program in which companies are issued emissions limits, or caps, which they can then trade -- as a means to fight climate change.
On their own time, Williams and Zabel made a video expressing these opinions.
"Cap-and-trade with offsets provides a false sense of progress and puts money in the pockets of investors," Zabel said in the video. "We think that these restrictions might not be constitutional," he said.
Their bosses in San Francisco approved the effort by Williams and Zabel to release the tape, but after an editorial they wrote appeared in the Washington Post, EPA Director Lisa Jackson ordered the pair to remove the video or face disciplinary action.
Specifically, the administration's chief environmental official did not want Williams or Zabel mentioning their four decades with the EPA -- time spent studying cap and trade.
"The people who understand the problems with the cap and trade with offsets bill are not being heard," Williams told Fox News.
The EPA issued a statement saying it welcomes free expression provided employees adhere to ethics rules. The agency reportedly doesn't object to the content of the video but requires Williams and Zabel to make it clearer that they are speaking for themselves and not the EPA.
But some Republicans on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee want an investigation into what – if any -- regulations Zabel and Williams violated.
Critics argue the action contradicts the president's support for open government.
"It's censorship," Jeff Ruch, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, told Fox News.
"If the Obama administration believes in transparency it is precisely in these cases they need to prove it."