In formal comments on EPA's August 5, 2011, draft Scientific Integrity Policy, submitted September 2, SEJ recommended that EPA adopt portions of a model policy drafted by the Union of Concerned Scientists in addition to affirming that "media have a right to interact with EPA staff, including scientists, without having agency staff and/or political minders listening in or otherwise taking part."
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The system, proposed during the first months of the Obama administration, was delayed when it faced heavy opposition from industry groups and Republicans. In response, EPA reduced the number of businesses that need to report their emissions.
An Aug. 5, 2011, NASA memo says the agency's existing policies are so good they don't need improving — yet the policies do not offer any clear guarantee that reporters can talk to NASA scientists without permission and supervision from the public affairs office.
In formal comments, SEJ stated that the section of NOAA guidance policy requiring advance public affairs approval of media interviews — and minders sitting in on those interviews — thwarts open communication between scientists and reporters, which is "unacceptable in a free society."
While EPA oversees the Safe Drinking Water Act programs, much of the daily responsibility is delegated to state agencies. The non-partisan Government Accountability Office says the states are under-reporting violations and contamination to EPA. Moreover, EPA has fallen behind in setting standards for known contaminants that may cause health problems.
Five years after writing about polar bears drowning, apparently from lack of sea ice, a wildlife biologist with the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement was suspended without a reason. Later he was told it was due to charges of "scientific misconduct" from a party or parties not identified.
The draft "Scientific Integrity Policy" marks the first time that the EPA's previously unwritten minders-and-permissions policy for press interviews has been reduced to a publicly disclosed written policy applying to the entire agency. The Society of Environmental Journalists has previously opposed these restrictions and is likely to submit formal comments on this draft policy as well.
The more transparent Integrated Risk Information System would have shorter and clearer effects of hazard assessments and use more graphics and tables to present the data.
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility petitioned NOAA to reverse its no-advocacy policy, saying it's inconsistent with the agency's official scientific integrity policy and the Obama administration's much-vaunted advocacy of more openness in federal government.