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Daily News Archive
From December 7, 2006                                                                                                        

Controversy Surrounds EPA Library Closures
(Beyond Pesticides, December 7, 2006)
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has begun closing and dismantling some of its libraries to meet a proposed 2007 budget cut. Members of Congress and the scientific community have voiced concern over reducing access to EPA's libraries and how it will affect the ability of researchers and the agency itself to make fully informed decisions regarding protection of human health and the environment.

The agency claims that the changes are part of a plan to “modernize and improve” its services, while enduring the $2 million budget cut, by digitizing “unique” library documents and disposing of non-unique documents—reducing physical access to materials.

Branches which have already been shut down include the South Central Region 6 library, which served Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and 65 Indian tribes; the national headquarter’s library in Washington, DC; the libraries for Region 5, with headquarters in Chicago; Region 7, based in Kansas City, KS; and the Office of Prevention, Pesticides, and Toxic Substances.

Critics claim that valuable information will be lost or impossible to access during the years it will take to “digitize” library documents, and are disturbed by the hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of scientific journals, paid for by American taxpayers, which are being thrown away. Many also feel that the downsizing of EPA’s library system is merely one more example of the Bush administration weakening EPA.

"We think this is one of several actions the Bush administration is taking to lobotomize the EPA, to reduce its capability, so it's much less able to independently review industry submissions," says Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a Washington-based nonprofit group that advocates for federal environment employees.

The DC-based, non-profit organization, Union of Concerned Scientist, is specifically worried about reduced access to data and information on issues of toxicology and pollution, and has posted an action alert on its website urging citizens concerned over the closures to call EPA administrator Stephen Johnson to demand their discontinuation.

Members of Congress are also concerned by the library closures. Earlier in the month, Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and 16 other senators sent a letter to the Appropriations Committee asking EPA to be directed to halt the closures "while the Agency solicits and considers public input on its plan to drastically cut its library budget and services.” More recently, ranking Congressmen Bart Gordon (D-TN), John Dingell (D-MI), Henry Waxman (D-CA), and James Oberstar (D-MN) expressed concerns over the closures in a letter to EPA administrator Stephen Johnson.

Source: Christian Science Monitor and The Institute for Southern Studies

TAKE ACTION: Contact your Congressmen and ask them to support efforts to stop EPA’s library closures if they have not already, and to fight for adequate funding for EPA’s programs.