EPA Library Materials: Not Open for Public Access
While we may understand the Bush administration's reasoning behind hiding thousands of e-mails and other presidential records (though we obviously don't agree with it), we have no idea why it would choose to direct the EPA to lock away a significant portion of its library materials from the public. As we mentioned previously, the EPA has been busily closing many of its libraries to both public access and that of its own scientists over the last year and a half, all while claiming that the public is receiving "excellent library service." This despite the fact that Congress has been moving to reverse these closures.
Although the EPA has been scanning and digitizing a large portion of its documents into the National Environmental Publications website (though freely accessible to the public, its answer database is faulty and slow to respond), it has been keeping copies of each in its original format and been sending them to one of several storage sites in Cincinnati, North Carolina's Research Triangle Park and Washington, D.C. Whether the public will be able to access these hard copies remains very much in doubt, especially in the wake of a recently circulated internal memo that stated: "Repository libraries are not required to provide public access to their collections…"
"EPA claims that its libraries are designed for the twin purposes of improving the quality of information for agency decision-making as well as raising public environmental awareness, but right now the libraries are not serving either purpose very well," said Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) Associate Director Carol Goldberg. "Significantly, EPA is not even bothering to consult the public who paid for these collections."
Inexplicably, even the EPA's own staff scientists have not been consulted on the recent wave of closures and dissimulations. Though the union representing the scientists filed a grievance with the agency in 2006 protesting the closures as making it more difficult for them to do their work, the EPA simply chose to ignore it.
This is absolutely shameful. The fact that the EPA is acting to conceal these documents as though they were state secrets is both inexplicable and indefensible. Call EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson and give him a piece of your mind.