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Context of 'Mid-August 2006: Internal EPA Memo Warns that Library Closures Will Undermine Enforcement of Environmental Laws'

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A British Foreign Office memo concludes that a proposal to increase the number of US and British aerial attacks on targets in Iraq’s “no-fly” zone in order to “put pressure on the regime” would violate international law. The memo is later distributed to several high officials as an appendix to a July 21 Cabinet Office briefing paper (see July 21, 2002) meant to prepare officials ahead of a meeting on July 23 (see July 23, 2002). The memo also disputes the United States’ contention that the bombings are meant to enforce compliance with UN resolutions 688 and 687, which ordered Iraq to destroy its weapons of mass destruction. “This view is not consistent with resolution 687, which does not deal with the repression of the Iraqi civilian population, or with resolution 688, which was not adopted under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, and does not contain any provision for enforcement,” it says. [London Times, 6/19/2005]

Entity Tags: British Foreign Office

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

A 50-page internal EPA report, written by the agency’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance, finds that the agency has done a poor job enforcing federal water pollution regulations. The study, which looks at about 6,600 industrial installations and wastewater treatment plants between 1999 and 2001, concludes that at any one time a quarter of all large industrial plants and water-treatment facilities are violating federal law. But only a fraction of these are ever held accountable. Furthermore, the office reports, 50 percent of the serious offenders exceed hazardous substance limits by over 100 percent and 13 percent exceed the limits by 1,000 percent. In 2001, the EPA took action against no more than 15 percent of the facilities judged to be out of compliance with water pollution rules. Less than half of these resulted in fines averaging about $6,000. [Washington Post, 6/6/2003; Reuters, 6/10/2003; Associated Press, 6/11/2003]

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

The EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance warns in an internal memo that the administration’s plan to close several of the agency’s technical libraries will “compromise” its effort to prosecute polluters. EPA enforcement staff use the libraries to obtain technical information needed to prosecute businesses that violate environmental regulations. The memo explains: “If OECA is involved in a civil or criminal litigation and the judge asks for documentation, we can currently rely upon a library to locate the information and have it produced to a court house in a timely manner. Under the cuts called for in the plan, timeliness for such services is not addressed.” [PEER, 8/28/2006]

Entity Tags: Office of Enforcement and Compliance

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

The ranking members of the House Government Reform Committee and the Committee on Science, Energy, and Commerce ask the Government Accountability Office to investigate the impact that Bush’s proposed budget cuts (see Early February 2006) and the EPA library closures (see, e.g., August 15, 2006 and October 20, 2006 and After) will have on scientific research, regulatory quality, and enforcement capability. The letter cites the concerns of EPA scientists that the changes will “harm the agency’s ability to carry out its mission and will be especially damaging to EPA’s ability to enforce environmental laws.” It adds that EPA employees fear the library reorganization scheme may result in the “permanent” loss of access to many documents. [PEER, 8/21/2006; Gordon, Waxman, and Dingall, 9/19/2006 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Henry A. Waxman, Bart Gordan, Government Accountability Office, John Dingell, Environmental Protection Agency

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

Citing proposed cuts in its 2007 fiscal year budget, the EPA begins ordering its regional offices to cancel subscriptions to several of the technical journals and environmental publications that are used by its scientists. One internal email reveals that the agency’s Mid-Atlantic Region is being asked “to cut its journal renewals about in half.” According to the organization Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), the subscription cancellations mean that “agency scientists and other technical specialists will no longer have ready access to materials that keep them abreast of developments within their fields. Moreover, enforcement staff, investigators, and other professionals will have a harder time tracking new developments affecting their cases and projects.” The cancellations come on top of the closures of several EPA libraries that have already cut employees’ access off from tens of thousands of documents (see, e.g., September 20, 2006 and August 15, 2006). When news of the library closures sparked protest from EPA scientists over the summer (see June 29, 2006), agency officials attempted to assuage their concerns with promises that the EPA would implement a “new library plan to make environmental information more accessible to employees.” But critics say the subscription cancellations contradict this claim and are a clear sign that the agency does not intend to improve its staff’s access to the information. [PEER, 10/9/2006]

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

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