Journalists, Scientists: EPA Blocks Scientists From the Media

Wednesday, 13 Aug 2014 09:20 AM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Journalists and scientists want the Environmental Protection Agency to quit restricting the independent scientists who advise it from talking to the media without first getting permission.

The Society of Environmental Journalists, the Union of Concerned Scientists and others signed a letter Tuesday to the EPA, saying the agency curtails information essential to the public, reports The Hill.

"We write to urge you to clarify that members of the EPA Science Advisory Board (SAB) and the 20 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," says the groups' letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.

According to an EPA memo, the agency advises the scientists to "refrain from directly responding to external requests" from the media.

However, the media and science representatives pointed out in their letter, other agencies like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration allow their scientists to "speak freely with the media and public about scientific and technical matters based on their official work without approval."

The letter isn't the first time journalists and others have complained about the EPA's lack of transparency, including its practice of providing background and not interviews, and a complaint from the Center for Public Integrity, which said the EPA blocked it from interviewing officials.

The EPA, though, said through a representative that "transparency and openness are key operating principles, and that its Science Advisory Board members are always open to both the public and the media.

Lawmakers have also complained that the EPA operates under secrecy. Last month, eight Republican senators accused the EPA of using "secret science" while justifying its regulations, introducing a bill to prevent the agency from using undisclosed scientific studies, reports The Hill.

"Since the American people bear the expensive costs of EPA red tape, they deserve to have access to the science behind the EPA’s proposals," Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., said in a statement while presenting the bill.

"For years, the EPA has based its rules and regulations on secret data that they refuse to publish and make available to all Americans," he said. "If the administration wants to finally live up to its claim of being the 'most transparent administration' in U.S. history, they’ll immediately support our bill."

McCarthy, though, has denied the "secret science" complaints.

"If EPA is being accused of 'secret science' because we rely on real scientists to conduct research, and independent scientists to peer review it, and scientists who’ve spent a lifetime studying the science to reproduce it — then so be it," she said earlier this year, accusing Republicans of using the claim to disagree with EPA policies.

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