In an August 15 email, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Chief of Staff Gwendolyn Keyes Fleming said EPA Science Advisor Bob Kavlock would review complaints from journalism (including SEJ) and open-government groups that scientists on EPA advisory panels were being told not to answer news-media or congressional inquiries without permission.
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Journalism and science groups, including SEJ, protested an August 12, 2014, "don't talk" memo from EPA's chief of staff. The memo makes it clear: members of the agency's many science advisory panels are not to talk to the news media or Congress without permission. Attached to the memo was an "EPA Policy" restricting communications between Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) committee members and parties outside EPA.
Here are some recent explainers of interest to environmental journalists from the CRS, which Congress does not allow to be released to the taxpaying public who paid for them. The WatchDog thanks those who leaked them and the Federation of American Scientists' Project on Government Secrecy for publishing them.Topics on the Beat:
For some years now, under multiple administrations, journalists who have called EPA scientists and other experts asking to talk to them about matters large and small have almost universally been told something like, "I'm not allowed to talk to news media without Press Office permission." Yet EPA officials maintain they do not have a press policy. SEJ's WatchDog filed June 10, 2014 the first of what will be an ongoing series of FOIA requests to get to the bottom of this ironic situation.
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As new heads for environmental and energy agencies come before the Senate for confirmation, they will likely feel heat over the gulf between the Obama administration's rhetoric on transparency and its iron discipline on message control. Case in point: Gina McCarthy, widely expected to be Obama's nominee for EPA's top administrator slot.
According to the Washington Post, the National Weather Service is firing William Proenza, who once headed the National Hurricane Center, for revealing to the Post that looming budget cuts would harm forecasting effectiveness (something that can affect public safety and the profits of business).
The suicide earlier this month of open-access activist Aaron Swartz brings again to the fore the ongoing difficulty journalists have accessing published scientific studies that bear on key current and future policy issues. Photo of Swartz, credit Flickr/peretzp.
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Under FOIA, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility requested FDA documents justifying its use of categorical exclusions to avoid assessing the environmental impact of not regulating livestock antibiotics. After FDA failed to provide any, PEER filed a lawsuit in federal district court.