Tying in with this article by the BadAstronomer about the war on Science by the George W. Bush Administration, allow me to add an update to one of my own stories.
Back in December, I wrote a long piece about the EPA closing its libraries for the political and economic expediency of the President and his big business backers.
The quick and dirty version is this:
The Environmental Protection Agency began to quietly close its physical libraries to the public, scientists, and even its own employees, without proper notice and in violation of federal regulation. Further, they immediately began selling off all the physical assets of the libraries including the microfiche readers, the cabinets, and even the book cases, in an effort to ensure the libraries would be unable to re-open.
The stated rationale was basically two-fold: to save money, and to digitize all the records. Both of those excuses were roundly exposed as lies, as the process would actually come with a rather large pricetag, and the records were not at all being digitized. In fact, the records that were already online were being destroyed as well.
After a large public and governmental outcry (even the EPA’s own scientists are against this but as is typical for this administration, the scientists were ignored), the EPA relented to the newly elected Congress and said it wouldn’t close any more libraries without Congressional authorization.
Big surprise, they lied.
According to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, the EPA has quietly resumed closing the libraries.
Washington, DC — Despite promises to consult with Congress before proceeding with dismantlement of its library system, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has ordered its libraries to “disperse or dispose of their…contents,” according to agency directives released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The move to eliminate physical collections comes as EPA’s own enforcement branch warns about the risks of hampering environmental prosecutions.
This time around, the EPA is even going after the laboratories, and again, the scientists are protesting the insane Orwellian practices of the EPA:
The EPA scientists say planned reductions target the very programs that are critical for addressing emerging environmental threats, such as global warming.
In calling for congressional intervention, the petition cites a budget-driven agenda that does not take into account the effects on “the quality and quantity of work produced at U.S. EPA’s laboratories”, including:
- Plans to close a minimum of 20% of the “laboratory infrastructure” within the next four years;
- An agency budget memo calling for identification of “low hanging fruit” in research programs whose elimination would produce immediate savings; and
- A crippling disinvestment in EPA scientific capacity.
In contrast to these reductions, the EPA scientists argue that a greater research effort is needed to address new environmental threats. Pointing to recent closure of EPA technical libraries, the petition warns:
“If the U.S. EPA shutters or consolidates its laboratories like it did its libraries, the very mission of the U.S. EPA would be in jeopardy.”
Indeed, that is apparently the point:
Even as Congress moves to reverse EPA’s library closures, the agency is now racing to cement new procedures restricting the ability of the public to locate or read technical documents in the agency’s possession. A new proposed policy circulated internally for comment on July 11, 2007 provides:
“Repository libraries are not required to provide public access to their collections…”
It is yet more evidence that this administration’s goal is to turn science into nothing more than a mouthpiece for the Republican party’s political agenda.
Let me close this article by reiterating my December closing remarks.
There is no longer any pretense behind which they can hide. The administration is deliberately denying access to publicly owned federal documents and records. It is actively blocking scientists and researchers from exposing the damage that large polluters are doing to the environment. It is closing off information about global warming and astrophysics. It isn’t doing it to save money, it isn’t doing it to modernize access. It is doing it to promote an alternate reality wherein the public sees and hears only what the White House wants it to see and hear.
These tactics are well known across the globe. There have been many governments over time that limited the free access to information. Not a one of them did it for democratic principles. Not a one of them did it for the people.
This administration is no exception. George W. Bush, who is the ultimate boss of the EPA and other executive branch libraries, is responsible for this egregious attempt at censoring information from the public that directly contradicts his propaganda version of reality.
This war on science led by the President must be stopped in its tracks.
From whence came the art: