At issue is next week's huge government report on the state of the environment. Under heavy editing pressure from the White House, a lengthy chapter on climate change has been gutted.
In a draft of the report – obtained by CBS News – strong language that "climate change has global consequences for human health and the environment" was stricken by the White House; as was government research that suggests recent climate change is "likely mostly due to human activities."
An edited version said that climate change "may have potentially profound consequences" but, "The complexity of the earth system and the interconnections among its components make it a scientific challenge to document change, document its cause and develop useful projections on how natural variability and human actions may affect the global environment in the future."
The revised draft removed a reference to a 1999 study showing global temperatures had risen sharply in the past decade compared to the previous 1,000 years. But it did cite another study, partly paid for by the oil industry, challenging the uniqueness of recent temperature increases.
And it deleted a National Research Council finding that various studies have suggested that recent warming was unusual and likely due to human activities. The 2001 NRC report had been commissioned by the White House and cited in the past by President Bush.
"When presented with real science that talks about what climate change means to you and me, the Bush administration instead wants to essentially take that out, censor it," says Jeremy Symons of the National Wildlife Federation.
The changes were protested by EPA staffers, who wrote in a confidential memo that the report "no longer accurately represents scientific consensus on climate change."
But outgoing EPA administrator Christie Todd Whitman, who was comfortable with the original language, gave in, fearing the White House might kill the entire report.
"I didn't want to lose this report over language on climate change. It wasn't worth it," Whitman said.
A so-called EPA "options" memo gives a rare glimpse into her decision. Fighting the changes, it states, "may antagonize the White House," while accepting them would "end a negotiating process that has regressed substantially."
In the end, the EPA just threw out most of the chapter, reasoning that it "can explain the omission by pointing to the scientific disagreements" over global warming.
White House officials say the language in the original report was too declarative for a science that is still poorly understood. But the action seems to have only further tarnished what environmental groups say is an already dismal record on environmental issues.
It's the second time in six months the administration has cut some discussion of global warming out of a report. In September, discussion of climate change was kept out of a report that had for six years contained a section on global warming.
The administration says the issue of climate change will be addressed in an upcoming, separate report.