EPA Promises to Look into Muzzling of Advisory Panel Scientists

August 27, 2014

More study is needed. Top EPA leaders promised August 15, a "review" of charges that they themselves were trying to keep advisory panel scientists from talking to news media, Congress, and the public.

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 and open-government groups that scientists on EPA advisory panels were being told not to answer news-media or congressional inquiries without permission.

Fleming was responding to an August 12 letter from the Society of Environmental Journalists and six other groups complaining about a newly-revealed "policy" memo telling members of the agency's Science Advisory Board and similar panels not to talk directly to reporters.

In their letter, the groups urged EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy "to clarify that members of the EPA Science Advisory Board (SAB) and the twenty other EPA science advisory committees have the right and are encouraged to speak to the public and the press about any scientific issues, including those before these committees, in a personal capacity without prior authorization from the agency."

Here is the text of Fleming's August 15 letter. It was addressed to Michael Halpern of the Union of Concerned Scientists, who had transmitted the groups' letter to EPA.

"Michael & Others,

Thank you so much for your letter and making us aware of your concerns.  The Administrator and I, along with a host of others in the Agency, share your commitment to transparency and scientific integrity and that is why the Administrator has asked ... our Science Advisor, Dr. Bob Kavlock, to review this matter.    Bob will be in contact with you in the very near future.  If you have any additional questions or concerns after connecting with Bob, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Thank you again for your willingness to engage with us on this.

Sincerely,

Gwendolyn Keyes Fleming

Chief of Staff, USEPA"