WASHINGTON - The sentence was buried deep within a recent Labor Department ruling, but the message was clear:
More specifically: Whistleblowers relying on the protections against official retaliation contained in several major environmental laws, proceed with caution.
The sentence was in a footnote at the end of a ruling against a federal whistleblower. It said the Labor Department recognized only the protections written into the clean air and solid waste-disposal acts, not laws governing clean water, drinking water, toxic substances and hazardous waste.
'This is the latest attack in a systematic war to gut the environmental whistleblowers' statutes,' charged Tom Devine, the legal director of the Government Accountability Project, a nonprofit watchdog group. 'They are a lifeline so government workers can challenge illegality without engaging in professional suicide.'