Daily News Archives
From April 7, 2005
Sues EPA For Refusing to Release Results of Employee Surveys
(Beyond Pesticides, April 7, 2005) The
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is illegally blocking the
release of internal surveys of its own scientific staff, according to
a federal lawsuit filed last week by Public
Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
PEER had requested copies of extensive employee surveys conducted in
1999, 2001 and 2003 within the EPA Office of Research and Development
(ORD). ORD employees approximately 2000 scientists in its laboratories
and research centers, where much of the agency's basic and applied science
concerning pollution monitoring, toxicological effects and other public
health issues are studied.
According to agency scientists, the EPA surveys covered a range of topics
concerning how EPA conducts its science, including questions on scientific
integrity and quality, the adequacy of resources and the effects of
management practices on employee morale. The three sets of surveys taken
over six years would also allow comparisons of scientist perceptions
during both the Clinton and Bush Administrations.
The PEER suit, filed under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), contends
that EPA has no legal basis for withholding survey results. EPA is even
refusing to disclose copies of the questions posed to agency scientists,
PEER stated in its press
release. "The agency claims that the surveys are part of EPA's
'deliberative process' without offering any justification as to how
or why," stated PEER General Counsel Richard Condit, who filed
the suit in federal district court in Washington, D.C. "It is difficult
to imagine what groundbreaking policies the agency might be contemplating
based on six-year-old survey data."
In February, the Union of Concerned Scientists and PEER released a survey
the two groups conducted among scientists within the U.S. Fish &
Wildlife Service. That survey revealed high reported levels of political
intervention to change scientific conclusions as well fear of retaliation
for expressing scientific concerns at variance with perceived agency
positions. (See Daily
"These scientists work within an agency but they work for the public,"
commented PEER Program Director Rebecca Roose, who filed the FOIA requests
with EPA. "The public has a right to know if public agency scientists
are being prevented from doing their jobs by politics."