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Originally published August 20 2014

Journalists call on EPA to end restriction on independent scientists talking to media

by J. D. Heyes

(NaturalNews) A collection of science and journalism organizations is pressing the Environmental Protection Agency to stop its policy of restricting independent scientists who advise the agency against talking to media outlets without first getting permission.

In a letter addressed to the agency in early April, the Society of Environmental Journalists, the Union of Concerned Scientists and others criticized the policy, The Hill newspaper reported.

David Cuillier, president of the Society of Professional Journalists, which joined in signing the letter, accused the EPA for seeking to control the flow of "crucial" information that the group says the public needs because it affects them.

"We write to urge you 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," the letter to EPA chief Gina McCarthy said.

'Refrain from responding directly'

In a memo that was sent earlier this year, the EPA's chief of staff "reaffirmed" the policy. That agency memo said scientists who are counseling the agency "should refrain from directly responding to external requests."

As further noted by The Hill:

The media and science groups though pointed out that other agencies such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration allow scientists to "speak freely with the media and public about scientific and technical matters based on their official work without approval."

Like a number of other Obama Administration agencies, the EPA is facing increased criticism and scrutiny from the media for its lack of transparency, as well as its penchant to provide journalists only with background information instead of on-the-record interviews.

In fact, the Center for Public Integrity has recently accused the EPA of stonewalling after the group attempted to interview officials from the agency on the record.

The Hill reported that an EPA spokesperson has (of course) defended the policy, saying, in an Orwellian manner, that "transparency and openness are key operating principles" of the environmental agency.

The EPA went on to stress that all Science Advisory Board meetings are open to the public and press, and questions submitted are discussed openly.

But that, of course, does not address the issue of being denied access to key EPA officials for other on-the-record interviews about subjects and issues not covered in the board meetings.

Originally, the EPA sent its memo to staffers after members of the advisory board had sought clarification of policy.

Though the groups' letter says the policy is new, in fact, the EPA argues otherwise, stating that advisers have to "adhere to longstanding agency politics governing formal and informal outside communications."

Even federal watchdogs can't get at Obama officials

Dozens of federal government watchdogs also say they are having transparency issues with the Obama Administration. In an August letter to congressional leaders, 47 of the government's 73 independent watchdogs known as inspectors general (IG) accused a number of major agencies, including the Justice Department, the Peace Corps and the chemical safety board, of imposing "serious limitations on access to records." [See the letter here:].

The IGs are appealing to Congress to assist them in doing their jobs, which is to uncover instances of waste, fraud, abuse and mismanagement.

"Agency actions that limit, condition, or delay access thus have profoundly negative consequences for our work: they make us less effective, encourage other agencies to take similar actions in the future, and erode the morale of the dedicated professionals that make up our staffs," they wrote.

So much for being "the most transparent administration in history."


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