EPA tells Scientific Advisory Board “don’t talk”
In what appears to be a direct contradiction to the intent of the EPA’s Scientific Integrity Policy and this administration’s claims to be the “most transparent administration in history,” a memo presented at a “closed-door” July 24th Science Advisory Board (SAB) meeting informed members of the advisory board they are not allowed to speak to media or Congress without EPA permission.
That “don’t talk” memo was presented at a closed-door July 24, 2014, portion of EPA’s Science Advisory Board (SAB) meeting, and it was not publicly disclosed at the time. Standard SAB procedure follows federal law in requiring publication of materials distributed to SAB members in advance of a meeting.
The memo, from Chief of Staff Gwendolyn Keyes Fleming, was dated April 4, 2014, and was directed to Christopher Zarba, director of the Office of the Science Advisory Board and David Allen, chairman of the SAB. It said: “Committee members themselves and FACA Committees as a whole, should refrain from directly responding to these external requests related to their efforts to advise the agency….” Attached to the memo was an “EPA Policy” restricting communications between Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) committee members and parties outside EPA.
This latest action, muzzling SAB members, appears to fall right in line with EPA’s repeated refusals to release basic scientific data related to the justifications, costs, and/or benefits for many of their regulations dating as far back to the early 2000’s.
Once again we see the EPA apparently employing a “trust us, we’re the EPA” method of justifying their multitude of multi-billion dollar regulations. As courts tend to give a wide degree of deference to agencies like the EPA, it is absolutely essential that the public have free and unfettered access to EPA’s basic data and to comment from SAB members. That access is clearly not forthcoming, despite the administration’s claims to transparency.
If a similar memo to scientific advisors had been prepared by executives in industry, one could easily see CEO’s and boards of directors facing injunctions, hearings, potential fines and even jail sentences. In the same vein, EPA should not just get a pass on requirements to provide the most basic of justifications for its regulatory actions.