Report:: 60% of EPA’s staff scientistssay they have suffered political interference

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) released http://ucsusa.org/news/press_release/hundreds-of-epa-scientists-0112.htmlApril 23, an investigation of the Environmental Protection Agency which found that 889 of nearly 1,600 staff scientists reported they had experienced political interference over the last five years. The UCS had already published invesatigations of the Food and Drug Administration, Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and climate scientists at seven federal agencies, which also had revealed significant administration manipulation of federal science.

Francesca Grifo, director of UCS’s Scientific Integrity Program, said

Our investigation found an agency in crisis…Nearly 900 EPA scientists reported political interference in their scientific work. That’s 900 too many. Distorting science to accommodate a narrow political agenda threatens our environment, our health, and our democracy itself.

Congress is currently investigating administration interference in a new chemical toxicity review process as well as California’s request to regulate tailpipe emissions. And in early May, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is expected to hold a hearing on political interference in the new EPA ground-level ozone pollution standard.

The investigation included dozens of interviews with current and former EPA staff members, analysis of government documents, and a questionnaire sent to 5,419 EPA scientists by Iowa State University’s Center for Survey Statistics and Methodology. The questionnaire generated responses from 1,586 scientists, but not all of the respondents answered every question.

Additional findings:

  • 394 scientists (31 percent) personally experienced frequent or occasional “statements by EPA officials that misrepresent scientists’ findings.”
  • 285 scientists (22 percent) said they frequently or occasionally personally experienced “selective or incomplete use of data to justify a specific regulatory outcome.
  • 224 scientists (17 percent) said they had been “directed to inappropriately exclude or alter technical information from an EPA scientific document.”
  • Of the 969 agency veterans with more than 10 years of EPA experience, 409 scientists (43 percent) said interference has occurred more often in the past five years than in the previous five-year period. Only 43 scientists (4 percent) said interference occurred less often.
  • Hundreds of scientists reported being unable to openly express concerns about the EPA’s work without fear of retaliation; 492 (31 percent) felt they could not speak candidly within the agency and 382 (24 percent) felt they could not do so outside the agency.P
  • political interference is most pronounced in offices where scientists write regulations and at the National Center for Environmental Assessment, where scientists conduct risk assessments that could lead to strengthened regulations.
  • Nearly 100 scientists identified the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) as the primary culprit. … “Currently, OMB is allowed to force or make changes as they want, and rules are held hostage until this happens…OMB’s power needs to be checked as time after time they weaken rulemakings and policy decisions to favor industry….OMB and the White House have, in some cases, compromised the integrity of EPA rules and policies; their influence, largely hidden from the public and driven by industry lobbying, has decreased the stringency of proposed regulations for non-scientific, political reasons… real reasons can’t be stated, the regulations contain a scientific rationale with little or no merit…..”They … have inappropriately stopped agency work that has been in progress for years due to their lack of scientific understanding.”
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