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US Environmental Record

Specific Issues and Cases

Project: US Environmental Issues
Open-Content project managed by Derek, mtuck

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EPA Midwestern Regional Administrator Thomas Skinner writes in an email to employees that the EPA library at Chicago regional headquarters “will close in the near future” in order “to allow time for an orderly relocation of our library collection.” The memo explains that the Bush administration’s 2007 budget request, which has not been approved by Congress, has proposed reducing funding for the Chicago library by 90 percent (see Early February 2006). [PEER, 3/16/2006] The agency does not publish any notice in the Federal Register about the closure of this library, despite a federal requirement (Office of Budget & Management Circular A-130) that the public be notified whenever “terminating significant information dissemination products.” [PEER, 8/21/2006] The library serves the six-state region of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin. [PEER, 3/16/2006]

Entity Tags: Thomas Skinner, Environmental Protection Agency

Category Tags: EPA library closures

Representatives for 10,000 EPA scientists write a letter to Congress protesting the Bush administration’s plan to close the agency’s research libraries. The letter’s authors, representing more than half of the EPA’s total workforce, say that about 50,000 original research documents will become completely unavailable because the agency has no plan to digitize them. Nor does the agency have plans to maintain the inter-library loan process. The letter warns that the closures would make thousands of scientific studies inaccessible, making it more difficult to prepare for emergencies and enforce environmental laws. As an example of the impact that these measures will have, Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, notes that “important research on the Chesapeake Bay is locked away in boxes since EPA closed its Ft. Meade library in February, yet EPA still maintains that restoring the Chesapeake is a top priority.” The letter describes the library closures as another “example of the Bush administration’s effort to suppress information on environmental and public health-related topics.” [PEER, 6/29/2006; Saracco et al., 6/29/2006 pdf file]

Entity Tags: US Congress

Category Tags: EPA library closures

An internal EPA document reveals that the agency plans to immediately implement the Bush administration’s proposed budget cuts for the next fiscal year, which begins in October, without waiting for congressional approval. The memo, titled “EPA FY 2007 Library Plan,” describes “deaccessioning procedures” for the “the removal of library materials from the physical collection.” The document says that regional libraries located in Chicago, Dallas, and Kansas City will be closed by September 30 while library hours and services at other regional facilities will be gradually reduced. As many as 80,000 original documents, which are not electronically available, will be boxed up and shipped to a new location until they are eventually digitized. [Environmental Protection Agency, 8/15/2006 pdf file; PEER, 8/21/2006]

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency

Category Tags: EPA library closures

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

Category Tags: Environmental enforcement, EPA library closures

The AFGE National Council of EPA Locals files a formal grievance demanding that the EPA put on hold all scheduled library closures until the affected scientists can negotiate the matter as required in their collective bargaining agreement. The grievance states that while EPA management “has been insisting that it can effectively ‘do more with less,’ and continue to provide the same level of library services to all of EPA’s staff members despite the reduction in the number of library contractor staff, the council is not convinced that this is the case.” [Locals, 8/16/2006 pdf file; PEER, 8/21/2006]

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency, National Council of EPA Locals

Category Tags: Environmental enforcement, EPA library closures

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

Category Tags: EPA library closures

The EPA publishes a notice in the Federal Register that it will be closing its headquarter library on October 1. The library contains 380,000 documents on microfiche, a microforms collection of abstracts and indexes, 5,500 hard copy agency documents, and more than 16,000 books and technical reports produced by other government agencies. The EPA has already quietly closed several regional libraries, whose collections are currently not available to anyone, even the agency’s own scientists (see August 15, 2006). Though agency officials insist that the collections from these libraries will be digitized and made available via the Internet, no funds have yet been allocated for this purpose. [PEER, 8/21/2006; Environmental Protection Agency, 9/20/2006 pdf file] Unlike today’s notice about the closing of the headquarter library, no public notice was given for the closures of the agency’s regional libraries (see August 15, 2006).

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency

Category Tags: EPA library closures

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

Category Tags: Environmental enforcement, EPA library closures

The EPA quietly closes its Office of Prevention, Pollution, and Toxic Substances (OPPTS) Library, packing its paper-only collection of documents into boxes and storing them in a basement cafeteria. The uncataloged collection is now completely unaccessible to government scientists. The library was used by EPA scientists who review applications from chemical companies who want to market new chemicals. Critics say the closure will make it more difficult for EPA scientists to determine the safety of new chemicals. In violation of federal policy (Office of Budget & Management Circular A-130), the agency issued no public notice about dismantlement of the library. [PEER, 10/30/2006] Not even the scientists who use the library were given prior notice. [PEER, 11/20/2006] Nor was the library included in the “EPA FY 2007 Framework” listing libraries slated to be shut down. [PEER, 10/30/2006] The library’s collections is supposed to be distributed to other EPA libraries, but some of the documents will be tossed into garbage bins (see October 20, 2006 and After).

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency

Category Tags: EPA library closures

On October 20, the EPA quietly closed its Office of Prevention, Pollution, and Toxic Substances (OPPTS) Library, which housed thousands of one-of-a-kind documents relating to the safety of chemicals (see October 20, 2006). Material from the library had been used by government scientists to review industry applications for new chemicals. Since the closure, the agency has asked other EPA libraries to take possession of the documents. But documents that have not been claimed by other libraries are being tossed into garbage bins. Jeff Ruch, of the organization Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), has been an outspoken critic of the EPA library closures. According to him, it appears as if “the appointed management at EPA is determined to actually reduce the sum total of human knowledge. EPA is not an agency renowned for its speed, so its undue haste in dumping library holdings suggests a political agenda rather than anything resembling a rational information management plan.” [PEER, 11/20/2006]

Entity Tags: Jeff Ruch, Environmental Protection Agency

Category Tags: EPA library closures

A person describing him or herself as an “anonymous EPA employee” writes that an “atmosphere of fear, intimidation, and suppression… has permeated EPA for the past six years.” [Anonymous, 11/20/2006 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency

Category Tags: Politicization and deception, EPA library closures

Four incoming House Democratic committee chairs write a letter to EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson demanding that the agency immediately cease the “destruction or disposition of all [EPA] library holdings… and that all records of library holdings and dispersed materials” be kept safe. On October 1, the EPA closed several regional libraries and has since boxed up or destroyed collections from these libraries as part of a library reorganization plan. The closures were prompted by Bush’s 2007 budget request which slashed funding for the EPA’s network of technical libraries (see Early February 2006). However, neither the budget request nor the reorganization plan has been approved by Congress. [Gordon et al., 11/30/2006 pdf file; Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), 12/8/2006] The next day, on December 1, the EPA, apparently ignoring the senators’ request, removes thousands of documents from the website of the Office of Prevention, Pollution, and Toxic Substances (OPPTS) Library [Stoss, 12/4/2006 pdf file; Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), 12/8/2006] , which was quietly shut down about six weeks ago (see October 20, 2006).

Entity Tags: Henry A. Waxman, John Dingell, Stephen Johnson, James L. Oberstar, Bart Gordan

Category Tags: EPA library closures

As part of a library reorganization plan that was proposed in Bush’s 2007 budget request (see Early February 2006), but not approved by Congress, the EPA begins hurriedly selling library assets off for less than a penny on the dollar. Acting on orders from EPA headquarters, the agency auctions off over $40,000 worth of furniture and equipment from the recently closed Chicago regional library for a mere $350. The woman who purchases the merchandise says she expects to resell the goods for about $80,000. [GSA Auctions, 10/23/2006 pdf file; Partee, 10/28/2006 pdf file; Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), 12/8/2006] Critics suggest that the motivation behind the rushed liquidation sale is to prevent a re-opening of the libraries should Congress vote down Bush’s budget cuts. Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility and an outspoken critic of the EPA library closures, notes, “One big irony is that EPA claimed the reason it needed to close libraries was to save money but in the process they are spending and wasting money like drunken sailors.” [Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), 12/8/2006]

Entity Tags: Jeff Ruch, Environmental Protection Agency

Category Tags: Environmental enforcement, EPA library closures

Some of the tens of thousands of salmon killed due to the artificial water lowering by the Department of the Interior.Some of the tens of thousands of salmon killed due to the artificial water lowering by the Department of the Interior. [Source: Environmental News Service]The House Natural Resources Committee, led by Nick Rahall (D-WV) and Mike Thompson (D-CA), decides to investigate the role of Vice President Dick Cheney in a 2002 salmon kill (see April 2002) on Northern California’s Klamath River, the largest fish kill in modern Western history (see September 2002). “We know where the smoking gun lays,” says Chris Lawson, a fisherman and president of the Bodega Bay Fisherman’s Marketing Association. No one in Northern California or Oregon (another state affected by the fish kill) knew of Cheney’s role until a recent story in the Washington Post uncovered Cheney’s successful attempt to subvert both scientific evidence and the Endangered Species Act to allow a water release that drastically lowered the water level in the Klamath. The day the article appears, Thompson and 35 other Democrats call for a hearing by the House Natural Resources Committee, saying in a letter that “[t]he ramifications of that salmon kill are still being felt today as returns to the Klamath River are so low that commercial, sport and tribal fishing seasons have been curtailed for the past three years.” A day later, Rahall agrees. The hearing will be held a month later (see August 1, 2007). In October 2002, Thompson piled 500 pounds of dead coho salmon in front of the Interior Department, accusing that agency of “gross mismanagement” in the wildlife disaster. Now Thompson asks, “We know that science was manipulated and the law was violated. Did in fact the vice president of the United States put pressure on mid-level bureaucrats to alter the science and circumvent the law in order to gain political votes for his re-election or the election of other people in Oregon?” Cheney’s office responds to the hearings by saying it is “disappointing the Democrats would rather investigate than legislate,” and that the Post story is nothing more than “a repackaging of old accusations.” Cheney’s office refuses to say whether Cheney will agree to testify before the committee. The reduced river flow in 2002, says Thompson, “wasn’t about salmon or water, it was about electoral votes in Oregon.” Since the fish kill, the courts have prohibited the diversion of Klamath water for agricultural use once the water levels drop below a critical point. But in the years after the fish kill, the salmon catch has been gravely reduced. Commercial fishing in California and Oregon has suffered a more than 90% drop as recently as 2006; Congressional Democrats say the result has been over $60 million in damage to coastal economies. Only in 2007 have the number of young salmon in the Klamath shown indications that salmon numbers may once again be increasing. [Associated Press, 6/28/2007; Santa Rosa Press-Democrat, 7/9/2007] However, the Klamath salmon are still gravely threatened by rampant fish diseases infesting tens of thousands of juvenile salmon, as well as abnormally high water temperatures and low water levels. [CounterPunch, 7/16/2007]

Entity Tags: Mike Thompson, Bodega Bay Fisherman’s Marketing Association, Chris Lawson, House Natural Resources Committee, Nick Rahall, US Department of the Interior, Washington Post, Endangered Species Act, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney

Category Tags: Corruption, Corporate welfare, Endangered species, Environmental enforcement, Klamath Basin Fish Kill

The White House finally releases a list of officials and organizations who met with Vice President Cheney’s energy task force (the National Energy Policy Development Group—see May 16, 2001) in 2001. Cheney and the White House have successfully battled for six years to keep virtually all details of the task force secret (see May 10, 2005), and many other documents and files pertaining to the task force remain secret. The list of participants confirms what many have always suspected—that oil, gas, and energy executives and lobbyists were virtually the only ones to have any input in the task force’s policy deliberations. Many of the participants were also heavy donors to the Bush-Cheney campaign, and to the Republican Party in general.
Secrecy - Some participants say they were never sure why the White House fought so hard to keep the information about the task force secret. “I never knew why they fought so hard to keep it secret,” says Charles A. Samuels, a lawyer for the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers. “I am sure the vast majority of the meetings were very policy-oriented meetings—exactly what should take place.” Others say that their meetings with the task force were routine.
API Input - American Petroleum Institute president Red Cavaney says that when he met with the task force, he and his fellow API officials discussed position papers the organization had given to the Bush-Cheney campaign and to newly elected members of Congress. “We’re in the business of routinely providing advocacy materials,” Cavaney says. “Speaking for myself, I had zero hand in authoring or sitting with anyone from that task force and changing anything.” But Cavaney is seriously downplaying API’s influence (see March 20, 2001).
"Ridiculous" - Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, who has been a driving force behind the effort to reveal the inner workings of the task force to the public, says it is it is “ridiculous” that it has taken six years to see who attended the meetings. He describes the energy task force as an early indicator of “how secretively Vice President Cheney wanted to act.” As to the makeup of the participants, Waxman is not surprised to see the dominance of energy industry groups in the meetings. “Six years later, we see we lost an opportunity to become less dependent on importing oil, on using fossil fuels, which have been a threat to our national security and the well-being of the planet,” he says. Climate expert David Hawkins of the Natural Resources Defense Council says: “Cheney had his finger on a critical issue. He just pushed it in the wrong direction.” [Washington Post, 7/18/2007]

Entity Tags: National Energy Policy Development Group, Bush administration (43), Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, American Petroleum Institute, Charles A. Samuels, Henry A. Waxman, Natural Resources Defense Council, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, David Hawkins, Red Cavaney

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

Category Tags: Corruption, Corporate welfare, Politicization and deception, Energy industry, Oil and gas industry, Cheney Energy Task Force

Representative Nick Rahall.Representative Nick Rahall. [Source: Nick Rahall]The House Natural Resources Committee holds a hearing to investigate the role that Vice President Dick Cheney and other Bush administration officials played in the decision that led to the largest fish kill in modern Western United States history (see Mid-2001 - Early 2002 and June 27-28, 2007). The committee is unable to find conclusive proof that Cheney directly gave the orders that led to the fish kill. A former Interior Department official, Deputy Inspector General Mary Kendall, testifies that Cheney pressured the department to release water in the Klamath River in Northern California, even though the water release would threaten the life cycle of tens of thousands of salmon who live and breed in the river. The water release was to benefit drought-stricken farmers and ranchers in the area. The decision went against the provisions of the Endangered Species Act as well as an overwhelming majority of scientific opinion and the tribal water rights of local Native Americans. Former fisheries biologist Michael Kelly, who worked on the Klamath issue, testifies that he cannot be sure whether Cheney interfered in the situation. “I was aware that President Bush had declared he’d do everything he could to get water to the farms,” Kelly says, and adds that he knew his own superiors were being pressured to speed up assessments and tilt the science to favor the farmers. “I was essentially asked to support a conclusion that made as much sense as 1+1=3,” Kelly says. The biological opinion underlying the plan was “completely bogus and illegal,” he adds. Chairman Nick Rahall (D-WV) calls the Klamath fish kill “a fiasco” and lambasts Cheney and Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne for refusing to testify before the committee. “I will not pretend to be surprised [Cheney] declined our invitation,” Rahall says. “But I am obliged to express disappointment at the difficulty we have had in trying to learn the truth and conduct basic oversight over an agency and an administration that have made secrecy and lack of accountability hallmarks of their tenure.” Rahall notes that “[w]hen it comes to political interference and ethical lapses at the department, the Klamath River is just the tip of the iceberg.… I find it difficult to see how we can trust any decision made in an agency that has, time and again, betrayed its own career scientists, repeatedly failed to hold its appointees to ethical standards and so callously disregarded its mission for the sake of political gain.” [Environmental News Service, 8/1/2007]

Entity Tags: Endangered Species Act, Bush administration (43), Dirk Kempthorne, George W. Bush, House Natural Resources Committee, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Mary Kendall, US Department of the Interior, Michael Kelly, Nick Rahall

Category Tags: Wildlife protection, Corruption, Endangered species, Environmental enforcement, Politicization and deception, Klamath Basin Fish Kill

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