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Of course it's reasonable, and valuable, for an organization to track its history of decision-making.  And political agencies, like the EPA, tend to have layers of "hidden history" that are often left out of documents, or only circuitously alluded to.

But this request strikes me as either incredibly clumsy - like asking the other football team whether they think the catch was good -  or brutally suggestive.  Is the new Obama EPA staff insinuating that there are no reliable accounts in its own archive? That the corporate culture is so flawed, so unreliable, that even outsiders are invited to cast themselves as more knowledgeable?  Because most environmental historians are outsiders to government culture, and to be honest, I've found much of their work on US pollution regulation to be only superficially informed about the complex politics and organizational behaviors at work. Worse, a lot of them rely on governmental,

What does it say about the corporate culture of EPA?  I've never worked for any agency or institution that had to float such a public request for outside information on its own history, unless it was melting down completely. 

I'm trying to imagine my - or your - university, for instance, sending out a request to, say, journalists, for accounts of its history of decision making.

Granted, my own university has been in one meltdown after another over the past 5-6 years, with frequent staff turnovers and reorganizations that have tended to muddle the records - when they even got started on keeping any. Prior to that, it was run through "handshake" deals that went unrecorded, mainly because the plantation old-boys for whom the state university was just another part of their fiefdom were a very small circle with no public accountability expected, or given. I've had to be one of those seeking out the hidden, contradictory, and very shady, history of some of these "deals."  Most of the staff hope - or pretend - that records exists and "will explain everything" (as being legal, or at least somewhat rational). None of them ever admit publicly that we have no reliable records of what was done.

A blunt request to generally critical outsiders for explanations of the organization's history sounds like a flat out admission that this agency official, at least, can't figure out what's gone on.   

Perhaps the EPA official requesting the recommendations is merely seeking to build their list of "most read" critiques.  But she's a PhD in a high-level job.  Shouldn't she know how to do her own homework? 

On Mon, Jan 26, 2009 at 10:48 AM, Michael H Goldhaber <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
I suspect that the political history was never recorded in official documents, so this seems to me a reasonable and even valuable request. 


Best,

Michael


On Jan 26, 2009, at 10:32 AM, Claudia Hemphill Pine wrote:

Does anybody else note teh funny that an EPA Science Advisor in Washington, D.C., is asking the academic list-serv for teachers of environmental history for sources on the history of U.S. regulation?

Maybe the EPA appointees from the last administration destroyed all the books? Maybe they only used that holy Book. (Or both their books had been colored in; insert favorite book joke here.)

I mean - it's a bit circular that the federal agency in charge of *knowing* what chemicals have been regulated -- and why, and when -- is asking for that info from the historians whose work ought to rely heavily on the facts in that same federal record.  Oy. I think I just got even more worried about the EPA. ... If that is possible.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, Jan 26, 2009 at 8:31 AM
Subject: History of US environmental regulation
To: [log in to unmask]

From: [log in to unmask]
[mailto:[log in to unmask]]
Sent: Monday, January 26, 2009 6:11 AM
Subject: History of US environmental regulation

Dear Members of the Listserve,

I wonder if you could point me, please, to the best histories of U.S.
environmental regulation that examine why certain chemicals were chosen
and especially certain endpoints, especially ecological endpoints (e.g.,
toxic effects, ecological or ecosystem effects) were selected.
Histories that examine both the scientific and social/political context
would be most welcome

Thanks in advance.
_______________________________________
Angela Nugent, Ph.D.
Special Assistant/Designated Federal Officer EPA Science Advisory Board
Staff Office
Email: [log in to unmask]

Mailing Address:
US.Environmental Protection Agency
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