Thursday, May 12, 2005

New use for duct tape at the EPA

Since the Department of Homeland Security still likes duct tape, they might suggest to the EPA that they use it to muzzle employees.

Political appointees at the EPA routinely deleted from agency documents scientists' concerns about the environmental impact of roadbuilding and a host of other issues, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council:

EPA stifles internal agency dissent over roadless rule

November 26, 2004: The Environmental Protection Agency has censored the warnings of its staff about a Bush administration plan to allow increased roadbuilding in pristine national forest areas, according to documents obtained by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. The information reveals that the EPA deleted comments about a host of environmental problems, ranging from impaired public drinking water to the spread of invasive plants, from comments it submitted to the U.S. Forest Service. "'Never was heard a discouraging word' is no longer just a lyric from "Home on the Range;" it is the new federal environmental mantra," said PEER executive director Jeff Ruch.

This past July the administration moved to replace a Clinton-era moratorium on building roads in 58.5 million acres of undeveloped national forests with a plan that generally allows road construction and logging. While the proposal lets a host state object and submit its own plan for protecting in-state roadless areas, the Forest Service would retain full power to deny a state's request. Moreover the state could request that other environmental protections be stripped from roadless areas.

In response to a U.S. Forest Service call for comments on this new plan, the EPA prepared material that argued for moderating the rollback in order to: lessen logging erosion that ruins water quality in streams and degrades wildlife habitat; address the $8.4 billion backlog for road repair and maintenance of existing roads in national forests; and give states more than 18 months to plan for initiating their own protection plans. "The EPA does not believe the proposed rule will resolve the existing controversy about (inventoried roadless areas), or provide the certainty that is needed to protect those areas," the draft letter states.

According to EPA employees, Steven Shimberg, a political appointee within the agency's Office for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, dismissed the staff draft as "a rant" and ordered the objections stricken. As a result, the EPA's final letter -- reduced to four paragraphs -- raised no objections to the plan and only meekly suggested that its "water quality concerns" could be addressed by forming an advisory committee.

"Building roads in forests doesn't just affect trees, it also harms watersheds that provide clean drinking water for millions of Americans," said Amy Mall, NRDC's senior forest specialist. "It's outrageous that Bush appointees at the EPA would secretly suppress environmental concerns raised by the agency's own scientists."

This latest act of self-censorship adds to a recent pattern in which the EPA's pollution-related concerns have been squelched from inter-agency communications. Similar objections by EPA specialists to Bush administration plans to allow snowmobiles in Yellowstone National Park, to greatly expand coal bed methane production on federal rangelands and to exempt Pentagon agencies from toxic waste regulations have all been excised from official correspondence.

For More Information
More Background:
The National Forest Roadless Area Rule

The Bush Record: Related Topic Areas
National Forests & Roadless Areas

Really though, I'm surprised to see that the White House is still telling people to use duct tape and plastic sheeting (here and here) to seal up their houses in the event of a terrorist attack with chemical or biological agents.


Post a Comment

<< Home