OIG is an independent branch of EPA that can receive complaints of mismanagement, misconduct, abuse of authority, or censorship, including those related to scientific or research misconduct, without fear of improper influence. Through its statutory mandate, OIG investigates these allegations. It makes recommendations based on findings, which it reports to Congress, but it cannot ensure the personal accountability of those responsible for misconduct. In this case, OIG made recommendations relating to strengthening policies and procedures for dealing with scientific data, disagreements, and integrity, and one recommendation “to strengthen the EPA’s culture of scientific integrity, transparency, and accountability of political leadership actions.” EPA disagreed with all five recommendations. If left unresolved, it will be included in OIG’s semiannual report to Congress.
Corruption and lack of scientific integrity are not new issues for EPA. (Other OIG reports also deal with failures of scientific integrity.) Regarding the pesticide program, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) Senior Counsel Peter Jenkins stated, “EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs has bent so far over backwards to accommodate industry desires that it is now beyond chiropractic help – major surgery is required,” noting that while problems within OPP worsened under Trump, they preexisted his term and continue today. “Inside OPP, marginalization of science remains cause for celebration and the result has been repeated ecological and public health disasters,” Mr. Jenkins said.