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Stifle Yourself

Aug 17, 2008
The Archie Bunker of the federal government, the Environmental Protection Agency, not happy with closing its libraries and cutting off vital research materials for its own scientists1—never mind the pesky public who pay their salaries— has now ordered its employees to stifle themselves and not to speak to the press, Congress, or its own inspector general.

Public Employees for Environmental Research (PEER) is a watchdog organization made up of public employees who don’t care for the sort of tactics used by agencies such as the EPA, which are putatively responsible for protecting our environment and doing so in an open and accountable manner. PEER’s recent news release, “EPA Staff Ordered to Stonewall Investigators and the Media,” relates how the EPA’s latest fiat implies a readiness to fire any employee who speaks even to their own internal investigative body or the Congressional Government Accountability Office. The move is typical of an administration which has stonewalled with impunity public and congressional attempts at factfinding, even going so far as to ignore Congressional subpoenas. The Office of the Vice President is a famously closed book to press and public alike.

Speaking of a book, you could fill one with the information resources—databases, libraries, expert testimony, public knowledge that suddenly becomes classified—that this administration has stifled. And someone should. The Federation of American Scientists has provided a good start, with a long list of Bush documents and press briefings regarding secrecy.2 And way back at the end of 2002, OMBWatch.org provided an excellent summary of the ways and means by which the Bush administration was taking us from a “right to know” to a “need to know” society.3

We’ve come a long way since 2002, to a day when public resources can be shut down at will by some faceless bureaucrat, and public employees excluded by interoffice memo from first amendment protection.
1“Critics say EPA closed libraries too soon,” by Wade-Hahn Chan, at FCW.com (Federal Computer Week web site) (Accessed August 8, 2008)
2“Bush Administration Documents on Secrecy Policy” (Accessed August 8, 2008)
3The Bush Administration’s Secrecy Policy: A Call to Action to Protect America’s Values from OMBWatch (Accessed August 8, 2008)
tags: EPA

Read the PEER News Release

Take a Deep Breath

Jun 21, 2008
I am never sure what official pronouncements from the executive branch of our federal government are worth in the best of times. In the worst of times, when that branch has sought to close the Environmental Protection Agency libraries serving EPA researchers and the general public1 and have brought political pressure to bear on scientists, forcing them to subvert their science and misrepresent their findings2, we must be even more skeptical.

Still, for the record, here’s the EPA’s “2008 Report on the Environment (Final Report).” Its main sections are Air, Water, Land, Human Health, and Ecological Condition. The report “compiles, in one place, the most reliable indicators currently available to answer 23 questions the EPA believes are of critical importance to its mission and the nation’s environment.”

The data regarding greenhouse gases only goes through 2005, making one wonder whether the EPA decided to stop collecting it then, what with the news being so bad and all. Neverthless, it reports that total emissions of CO2 increased by 20% from 1990 to 2005, and that total greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. in 2005 exceeded 7 billion metric tons (a metric ton is roughly equivalent to 2,200 pounds).
1EPA closure of libraries faulted for curbing access to key data [Source: Washington Post]
2EPA scientists cite political interference [Source: CNN]

tags: EPA

Download the Report

Heavy Weather

May 28, 2008
The Environmental Protection Agency has announced that “[t]otal emissions of the six main greenhouse gases in 2006 were equivalent to” slightly over 7 billion metric tons(!) of carbon dioxide. (A metric ton is about 2,200 pounds, or 10% heavier than a standard ton.) The good news? Thanks to a warm winter and a cool summer, emissions were down 1.1% from 2005.
tags: EPA

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