Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility News Release
For Immediate Release: June 29, 2006
Contact: Chas Offutt (202) 265-7337
10,000 EPA SCIENTISTS PROTEST LIBRARY CLOSURES - Loss of
Access to Collections Will Hamper Emergency Response and Research
Washington, DC - In an extraordinary letter of protest,
representatives for 10,000 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
scientists are asking Congress to stop the Bush administration from
closing the agency's network of technical research libraries. The
EPA scientists, representing more than half of the total agency
workforce, contend thousands of scientific studies are being put out
of reach, hindering emergency preparedness, anti-pollution enforcement
and long-term research, according to the letter released today by
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
In his proposed budget for FY 2007, President Bush deleted $2 million
of support for EPA's libraries, amounting to 80% of the agency's
total budget for libraries. Without waiting for Congress to act, EPA
has begun shuttering libraries, closing access to collections and
reassigning staff. The letter notes that "EPA library services are
[now] greatly reduced or no longer available to the general public"
in agency regional offices serving 19 states.
The letter signed by presidents of 17 locals of four unions (the
American Federation of Federal Employees, the National Treasury
Employees Union, the National Association of Government Employees and
the Engineers and Scientists of California) representing more than
10,000 EPA scientists, engineers and other technical specialists was
sent to Congressional appropriators this morning and states:
* "The ability of EPA to respond to emergencies
will be reduced" due to a diminishing access to "the latest
research on cutting-edge homeland security and public health"
* Approximately 50,000 original research documents
will become completely unavailable because they are not available
electronically and the agency has no budget for digitizing them;
* The public and academic researchers may lose any
access to EPA library materials as services to the public are being
axed and there are no plans to maintain "the inter-library loan
"Eliminating library access is an absolutely awful way to run an
agency devoted to public and environmental health," stated PEER
Executive Director Jeff Ruch. "For example, important research on
the Chesapeake Bay is locked away in boxes since EPA closed its Ft.
Meade library this February, yet EPA still maintains that restoring
the Chesapeake is a top priority."
The dogged insistence by the Bush administration on a $2 million cut
in an overall EPA budget of nearly $8 billion is particularly curious.
EPA internal studies show that providing full library access saves an
estimated 214,000 hours in professional staff time worth some $7.5
million annually, an amount far larger than the total agency library
budget of $2.5 million.
"The Bush administration apparently decided that it was politically
easier to close the libraries than to burn the books, although the end
result will be the same," Ruch added, noting that the EPA
Administrator brushed aside an earlier request by the scientist unions
to bargain about the library shutdowns internally.
In their letter, the EPA scientists cite library closures as "one
more example of the Bush administration's effort to suppress
information on environmental and public health-related topics." At
the same time, other outside observers, such as the Chair of EPA's
own Science Advisory Board, are expressing growing concerns over the
viability and coherence of EPA's research program.
Read the letter of protest from EPA scientists
Look at the Bush administration plan to shut EPA libraries
See how EPA is shutting libraries without waiting for Congress to
View the Science Advisory Board Chair's testimony on EPA's
deteriorating research program