Congress Orders EPA to Reopen Libraries: EPA Balks

January 16, 2008

Language tucked in the Omnibus 2008 Appropriations Bill (PL 110-161) signed by President Bush Dec. 26, 2007, ordered him to reopen EPA libraries shuttered by his administration and earmarked some $3 million to restore them.

Now the question is whether EPA will comply. Early statements from EPA brass seemed to defy Congress' direction, saying the agency would continue on the same course.

As the bill headed to Bush's desk, Environment News Service reported Dec. 24 that "report language attached to the omnibus appropriations bill for the remainder of the 2008 fiscal year directs EPA to use $3 million to 'restore the network of EPA libraries recently closed or consolidated by the Administration... ' and to report within 90 days on its plans to 'restore publicly available libraries to provide environmental information and data to each EPA region... '"

But a statement by Molly O'Neill, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Environmental Information, issued Jan. 14, 2008, said: "EPA continues to modernize its library network to enhance access to information for EPA employees and the public."

That seemed to defy requests from House Oversight Chairman Henry A. Waxman (D-CA) that EPA freeze its library closures (or overhaul) until federal auditors had a chance to investigate agency actions.