EPA, OSHA Flunk Science Openness Rating from UCS

October 22, 2008

Press offices at EPA, OSHA, and other agencies often censor scientists studying how industries harm the health of American citizens, a scientists' group announced October 17, 2008. The Union of Concerned Scientists rated media policies at 15 different federal agencies — most covered by environmental reporters.

Keeping the public ignorant of health threats posed by industries, critics argue, has helped limit or roll back regulations that could protect the health of workers and neighbors at various plants. While such censorship has existed in other administrations, the UCS said it has gotten much worse in the Bush administration. Industries such as coal, oil, utilities, and chemicals have contributed heavily to President Bush's campaigns.

UCS submitted Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for the media policies of the agencies. They evaluated both the written policies (when they existed) and the agencies' performance in practice. The U.S. EPA has one of the most restrictive press policies of all federal agencies — but has carefully avoided writing down any top-down directives from headquarters.

Following is the UCS "Report Card" rating the agencies:

Agency

Policy

Practice

Bureau of Land Management

D

Needs Improvement

Census Bureau

B

Needs Improvement

Centers for Disease Control (CDC)

A

Needs Improvement

Consumer Product Safety Commission

D

Unsatisfactory

Environmental Protection Agency

D

Unsatisfactory

Fish and Wildlife Service

D

Unsatisfactory

Food and Drug Administration

Incomplete

Needs Improvement

National Aeronautics and Space Administration

B

Satisfactory

National Institutes of Health

C

Needs Improvement

National Institute of Standards and Technology

B

Satisfactory

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

B

Satisfactory

National Science Foundation

Incomplete

Outstanding

Nuclear Regulatory Commission

B+

Satisfactory

Occupational Safety and Health Administration

F

Unsatisfactory

US Geological Survey

C

Satisfactory

The agencies with the best media openness, according to UCS, were NASA, NIST, and NOAA. The agencies with the worst openness were EPA, CPSC, FWS, and OSHA.

UCS urged the next administration to adopt policies and practices that would: