FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Burning EPA’s Books

by CHRISTOPHER BRAUCHLI

Science is not as intimidating as it first appears. Anyone can do it. It is important, however, that when done by scientists it be properly vetted by amateurs. And it is important that ordinary people don’t have too much information since it will simply confuse them. Thanks to the actions of George Bush we will no longer have to fear an excessively informed public that may fall prey to the importunings of scientists who believe themselves able to educate the rest of us and, more daunting still, George Bush. That is because in a moment of unexpected enlightenment Mr. Bush has realized that one of the best ways to control what people think is to control the kinds of information to which people have access. Here is what Mr. Bush has done to restrict the scientific information available to would-be students towards the end of 2006.

He is closing all the libraries run by the Environmental Protection Agency and getting rid of pesky and superfluous scientific documents found in those libraries. The EPA has maintained 29 libraries around the United States for many years that contain information about human health, environmental issues, hazardous waste, pollution control, air quality and all manner of other things with which the EPA concerns itself.

In the 2007 library services budget request by the EPA, Mr. Bush cut $2 million out of the $2.5 million requested. In anticipation of Congressional approval the EPA has already closed its library in Washington D.C. to the public and has completely closed libraries in Chicago, Dallas and Kansas City, Mo. In a letter to Congress protesting the cuts, EPA scientists observe that the $2 million cut is a small part of an $8 billion budget. That will not change Mr. Bush’s mind. Having little, if any knowledge himself and not having found that an impediment to becoming president, he sees no harm in making it harder for others to acquire that which he is lacking. Closing libraries is not the only way Mr. Bush hopes to keep citizens from being infected by knowledge. Scientists at the EPA, like its libraries, have been muzzled.

New regulations have been promulgated at the EPA that provide that when it comes to setting national air-quality standards, political appointees will have a greater role. Formerly independent outside scientists and professional scientists inside the EPA were responsible for setting safety standards for various pollutants. They made recommendations that were then sent to the political appointees who were the agency’s administrators. The recommendations were then forwarded to the White House. This was scientifically sound but it proved embarrassing to the administration when science ran up against the beliefs of George Bush and his political contributors. Under the new procedure this is less likely to happen since independent scientists will only be called on after political hacks and staff scientists have come up with what is now called “policy-relevant” science. The name suggests that policy and science should be given equal weight. The EPA is not alone in this most recent assault on knowledge-based decision-making.

New rules have been promulgated by the U.S. Geological Survey that will avoid having scientists making scientific pronouncements that go against Bush policy and beliefs. Under the new rules agency scientists at the USGS must submit all scientific papers and even minor reports or prepared talks to the USGS’s communications office. The new policy says that the USGS communications office and Mark Myers, the agency’s director, must be “alerted about information products containing high-visibility topics or topics of a policy-sensitive nature.” Mr. Myers and the office must be told prior to any submission for publication “of findings or data that may be especially newsworthy, have an impact on government policy, or contradict previous public understanding to ensure that proper officials are notified and that communication strategies are developed.”

According to Patrick Leahy, the agency’s head of geology and its acting director until September, the new procedure will “harmonize” the review process. It will avoid such unfortunate occurrences as the time in 2002 when the USGS warned that oil drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge would harm the Porcupine Caribou herd. Mr. Bush didn’t believe that. One week later the USGS had a new report saying the herd would be unaffected by the drilling.

Commenting on the new USGS rules, Jim Estes, an internationally recognized marine biologist in the USGS said: “I feel as though we’ve got someone looking over our shoulder at every damn thing we do. And to me that’s a very scary thing. I worry that it borders on censorship.” Mr. Estes is right. We all have someone looking over our shoulders. He’s called George Bush.

CHRISTOPHER BRAUCHLI is a lawyer in Boulder, Colorado. He can be reached at: Brauchli.56@post.harvard.edu. Visit his website: http://hraos.com/

 

 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

December 05, 2016
Bill Martin
Stalingrad at Standing Rock?
Mark A. Lause
Recounting a Presidential Election: the Backstory
Mel Goodman
Mad Dog Mattis and Trump’s “Seven Days in May”
Matthew Hannah
Standing Rock and the Ideology of Oppressors: Conversations with a Morton County Commissioner
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
#NoDAPL Scores Major Victory: No Final Permit For Pipeline
Fran Shor
The End of the Indispensable Nation
Michael Yates
Vietnam: the War That Won’t Go Away
Robert Hunziker
Huge Antarctica Glacier in Serious Trouble
John Steppling
Screen Life
David Macaray
Trump vs. America’s Labor Unions
Yoav Litvin
Break Free and Lead, or Resign: a Letter to Bernie Sanders
Norman Pollack
Taiwan: A Pustule on International Politics
Nick Pemberton
Make America Late Again
Kevin Martin
Nuclear Weapons Modernization: a New Nuclear Arms Race? Who Voted for it? Who Will Benefit from It?
David Mattson
3% is not Enough: Towards Restoring Grizzly Bears
Howard Lisnoff
The Person Who Deciphered the Order to Shoot at Kent State
Michael Uhl
Notes on a Trip to Cuba
Weekend Edition
December 02, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
The Coming War on China
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: The CIA’s Plots to Kill Castro
Paul Street
The Iron Heel at Home: Force Matters
Pam Martens - Russ Martens
Timberg’s Tale: Washington Post Reporter Spreads Blacklist of Independent Journalist Sites
Andrew Levine
Must We Now Rethink the Hillary Question? Absolutely, Not
Joshua Frank
CounterPunch as Russian Propagandists: the Washington Post’s Shallow Smear
David Rosen
The Return of HUAC?
Rob Urie
Race and Class in Trump’s America
Patrick Cockburn
Why Everything You’ve Read About Syria and Iraq Could be Wrong
Caroline Hurley
Anatomy of a Nationalist
Ayesha Khan
A Muslim Woman’s Reflections on Trump’s Misogyny
Michael Hudson – Steve Keen
Rebel Economists on the Historical Path to a Global Recovery
Russell Mokhiber
Sanders Single Payer and Death by Democrat
Roger Harris
The Triumph of Trump and the Specter of Fascism
Steve Horn
Donald Trump’s Swamp: Meet Ten Potential Energy and Climate Cabinet Picks and the Pickers
Ralph Nader
Trump and His Betraying Makeover
Louis Proyect
Deepening Contradictions: Identity Politics and Steelworkers
Stephen Kimber
The Media’s Abysmal Coverage of Castro’s Death
Dan Bacher
WSPA: The West’s Most Powerful Corporate Lobbying Group
Nile Bowie
Will Trump backpedal on the Trans-Pacific Partnership?
Ron Ridenour
Fidel’s Death Brings Forth Great and Sad Memories
Missy Comley Beattie
By Invitation Only
Fred Gardner
Sword of Damocles: Pot Partisans Fear Trump’s DOJ
Renee Parsons
Obama and Propornot
Dean Baker
Cash and Carrier: Trump and Pence Put on a Show
Jack Rasmus
Taming Trump: From Faux Left to Faux Right Populism
Ron Jacobs
Selling Racism—A Lesson From Pretoria
Julian Vigo
The Hijos of Buenos Aires:  When Identity is Political
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail