Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Is The Bush Administration Dismantling the EPA?

In February I reported for In These Times on the EPA’s shuttering of its technical libraries across the country. The closings began a month after President Bush unveiled his budget proposal for FY 2007 and the EPA Library Network learned that its annual disbursement would be slashed 80 percent from 2006 funding levels—from $2.5 million to just $500,000.

The EPA insisted that the library closings were part of a larger “digitization” of its files, which would make the agency more efficient and user-friendly, but as my article went to press, barely half of the now inaccessible EPA files had been databased.

Still others questioned the value of digitization itself, arguing that access is only part of the equation.

“A simple search engine just isn’t enough,” said Leslie Burger, president of the American Library Association. “With the loss of the brick-and-mortar facilities comes the loss of the most important asset in the library: the librarian. After all, what good is information if you can’t find it?”

Now it appears the administration is at it again. Bush’s 2008 budget takes another swipe at the EPA, and the agency plans to close a minimum of 20 percent of its “laboratory infrastructure” within the next four years, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

On May 24, Representatives for the majority of scientists, engineers and other specialists within the agency issued a petition calling for congressional intervention. The petition cites a budget-driven agenda that does not take into account the effects on “the quality and quantity of work produced at U.S. EPA’s laboratories.”

“If the U.S. EPA shutters or consolidates its laboratories like it did its libraries, the very mission of the U.S. EPA would be in jeopardy,” the petition warned bluntly.

Meanwhile, the President just authorized another $100 billion for the hugely unpopular war in Iraq. Is this the course we should be taking while the U.S. continues to lead the world in CO2 emissions?