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Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility News Release (www.peer.org)

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" topics;
     * 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; and
     * 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 process."

"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.

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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 act

View the Science Advisory Board Chair's testimony on EPA's 
deteriorating research program