PEER stands for Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. According to their website, PEER is:
...a service organization assisting [U.S.] federal & state public employees, [which] allows public servants to work as "anonymous activists" so that agencies must confront the message, rather than the messenger.
I am not quite sure how to describe these guys, but my best guess would be "a group of environmental activists who are trying to recruit EPA employees, and who count some EPA employees among their number" . In any case, they do not appear to be an association for EPA employees, or an EPA union of some sort.
Now, in late December, the group sent out a news release headlined:
HOW OLD IS THE GRAND CANYON? PARK SERVICE WON'T SAY Orders to Cater to Creationists Makes National Park Agnostic on Geology
Washington, DC , Grand Canyon National Park is not permitted to give an official estimate of the geologic age of its principal feature, due to pressure from Bush administration appointees
I did not write about this, but any number of bloggers did, and the story was also picked up by the MSM and several other print publications.
Skeptic Magazine was one of the publications that ran with the story from PEER. However, as the magazine's publisher writes:
...dozens [of our readers] immediately phoned both NPS and GCNP, only to discover that the claim is absolutely false. Callers were told that the Grand Canyon is millions of years old, that no one is being pressured from Bush administration appointees or by anyone else to withhold scientific information...
What is the case is that the Grand Canyon National Park bookstore sells a volume entitled Grand Canyon: A Different View by Tom Vail, which does give a Creationist account of the GC. However, this was all the evidence PEER could muster for the broader claim in their presser.
As I say, I didn't get caught by this bit of misinformation, but in late November I wrote a short Post entitled "10,000 Scientists Can't Be Wrong", where I retailed another PEER release to the effect that EPA scientists had signed a mass petition "calling on Congress to take immediate action against global warming." While this release is not as misleading as the more recent example, there is still alot less to it than meets the eye. For example, 10,000 scientists did not sign this petition, only their union reps. In fact, if you read the release carefully, it is possible that the petitioned garnered a mere 22 signatures, by the presidents of 22 locals of five unions.
In any case, I don't particularly care for getting screwed over by people who are supposed to be on "my side" of these issues. I would suggest that anybody who takes an interest in writing about environmental or related issues think twice before using anything from PEER as a source.