60 Percent Of EPA Staff Have ‘Personally Experienced’ ‘Political Interference’

bushjohsn.gifToday, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) released a report detailing the increasing politicization of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Of the nearly 1,600 EPA staff scientists surveyed, 889 of them — 60 percent — “said they had personally experienced at least one instance of political interference in their work over the last five years.” Other key findings from the report:

– 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.”

– 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.

What’s more, among the various offices and divisions of the EPA, the National Center for Environmental Assessment — “where scientists conduct risk assessments that could lead to strengthened regulations” — had the highest percentage of scientists reporting interferences, at 84 percent. This is unsurprising, considering that some of the highest profile examples of prioritizing ideology over science have occurred when the White House wants to weaken environmental regulation:

Bush intervened at the 11th hour to weaken or kill scientifically-recommended standards on ozone protection. [3/18/08]

Johnson ignored EPA staffers to reject California’s waiver to strengthen greenhouse gas emissions standards. [12/21/07]

The EPA concealed a scientific study that “would have forced the agency to consider more stringent controls” on acceptable mercury levels. [3/22/05]

Chairman of the House Oversight Committee Henry Waxman (D-CA) wrote a letter today to Johnson, warning him that, when Johnson testifies in May, he should “expect members of the Committee to ask about these survey results and other evidence of political interference with science at EPA.”