Washington, DC — Representatives for the majority of scientists, engineers and other specialists within the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are calling for a congressional review of agency plans to close laboratories and cut research programs, according to a mass petition released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). 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.”
The petition is signed by presidents of 22 locals of five unions: the American Federation of Government Employees, the National Association of Government Employees, the National Association of Independent Labor, the Engineers and Scientists of California and the National Treasury Employees Union. These unions represent more than 10,000 scientists and other technical specialists in a total workforce of 16,000.
“Distressingly, EPA is refusing to consult its own experts about the effects its plans will have on the ability of the agency to protect the environment,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting the plunging morale in the vast majority of EPA offices as measured in the latest “Best Places to Work Survey.” “Through petitions such as these, scientists inside EPA can communicate concerns that would otherwise be locked away in the cubicles.”
The petition urges congressional hearings to force the agency to put its laboratory reduction plans on the record and asks for a review by the Government Accountability Office to examine the cost effectiveness of planned cuts before they are implemented.