The Union of Concerned Scientists reported today that of 1,600 scientist at Environmental Protection Agency that responded to a detailed online survey, more than half said that they had been subject to political interference in their work.
Francesca Grifo, the director of the UCS Scientific Integrity Program, says the survey results show “an agency in crises”.
Researchers go about their work, but “their scientific findings are tossed out when it comes time to write regulations”, says Grifo. Not surprisingly, morale at the EPA is low.
Since a large number of scientists did not respond to the survey, co-author Timothy Donaghy cautions that the findings should not be seen as a random sample of EPA scientists. Nonetheless, says Donaghy, “we still have hundreds of scientists saying there is a problem”.
Among those scientists, 400 said they witnessed EPA officials misrepresenting scientific findings, 284 claimed to have witnessed “selective or incomplete use of data to justify a specific regulatory outcome” and 224 were told to “inappropriately exclude or alter technical information” in an EPA document.
Initially, managers instructed employees at the EPA not to respond to the survey, but the agency’s general counsel later sent an email saying employees could participate on their own time if they so wished.
The EPA has been no stranger to controversy lately, with many in Congress crying foul to redacted documents handed over in response to subpoenas regarding the agency’s recent decision to deny a waiver allowing California and other states to enforce legislation regulating greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles. White House interference is feared as reports show that unanimous support for the waiver from EPA scientists was overturned by director Stephen Johnson.
The charge of the EPA is simple: “To protect human health and the environment”
And yet it seems mired in tortured truth that does not serve well that simple and profound mission.