Hundreds of EPA Scientists Report Political Interference

This isn’t really news to anyone who’s been paying attention to the Bush administration over the past almost eight years:

Hundreds of EPA Scientists Report Political Interference – Union of Concerned Scientists

WASHINGTON (April 23, 2008) — An investigation of the Environmental Protection Agency released today found that 889 of nearly 1,600 staff scientists reported that they experienced political interference in their work over the last five years. The study, by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), follows previous UCS investigations of the Food and Drug Administration, Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and climate scientists at seven federal agencies, which also found significant administration manipulation of federal science.

“Our investigation found an agency in crisis,” said Francesca Grifo, director of UCS’s Scientific Integrity Program. “Nearly 900 EPA scientists reported political interference in their scientific work. That’s 900 too many. Distorting science to accommodate a narrow political agenda threatens our environment, our health, and our democracy itself.”

[…] Today’s UCS investigation included dozens of interviews with current and former EPA staff members, analysis of government documents, and a questionnaire sent to 5,419 EPA scientists by Iowa State University’s Center for Survey Statistics and Methodology. The questionnaire generated responses from 1,586 scientists, but not all of the respondents answered every question. (For the report, “Interference at EPA: Science and Politics at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,” go to www.ucsusa.org/EPAscience.)

Among the UCS report’s top findings:

– 889 scientists (60 percent) said they had personally experienced at least one instance of political interference in their work over the last five years.

– 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.”

– Of the 969 agency veterans with more than 10 years of EPA experience, 409 scientists (43 percent) said interference has occurred more often in the past five years than in the previous five-year period. Only 43 scientists (4 percent) said interference occurred less often.

– 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.

UCS’s investigation revealed political interference is most pronounced in offices where scientists write regulations and at the National Center for Environmental Assessment, where scientists conduct risk assessments that could lead to strengthened regulations.

“The investigation shows researchers are generally continuing to do their work,” said Dr. Grifo. “But their scientific findings are tossed aside when it comes time to write regulations.” 

Like I said, big fucking surprise to no one who is actually paying attention. This administration has placed politics over science since day one. January 2009 can’t come soon enough.

2 thoughts on “Hundreds of EPA Scientists Report Political Interference

  1. I’ve heard this story over and over and yet I still can’t come to grips with understanding it, much less be able to passively consider it.  This stuff seriously riles me more than the Discovery Institute, and that is saying something.

    Science at all costs must try to maintain its removed perspective and its deductive roots.  If we allow too much control, too much agenda and too many expectations or even demands of the systems we are observing, we are hawking a new doctrine of ignorance.  Scientific knowledge is not some concrete dam you can throw ideas at and make them stick, it is a crystalline structure that relies on the purity of its components and their formation.  Every idea must undergo strict scrutiny and evaluation, nothing can be left untouched.  Allow impurities and the whole system will shatter like glass against induced perspective.  You can’t change nature to fit your views, any attempt will result in incredible backlash.  With this dam gone, what is to stop other dams of knowledge from buckling?  With each fallen, the water of ignorance can and will rush in and the world will be mired in disinformation and bloody entrenched positions.  With every new story like this, I fear Sagan’s nightmare in the Demon-Haunted World will become a reality and what knowledge there is left to preserve will be locked up in monastery equivalents.

    The Bush administration and dare I say every neo-conservative agenda is dangerous to the survival of science and critical inquiry.  Nothing irks me more than the readjustment or termination of a project, particularly something running for years, because it doesn’t match the party in power’s ideals.  Even worse is this pushing of religious truth on the scientific community and telling them that their research is now under God.  Last time I checked, God doesn’t typically fund laboratories.  I’d rather not join with Iran and scour religious texts for secret scientific knowledge; they always seem to discover things after the fact.  At the rate that the USA and therefore potentially the world is treating science, I’ll have to look out for retraining at a seminary.

    Sadly I might lose my job cause of this.

  2. Nearly 900 EPA scientists reported political interference in their scientific work. That’s 900 too many.

    Try that’s 1 too many.

    And yes, this shit pisses me off too. We should have threw Bush out of office a long fucking time ago.

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