In 2006, the Bush administration began working to dismantle the U.S. Environmental Protection Agencys network of technical libraries. EPA pushed ahead with library closures, without waiting for Congress to approve its plans.
These libraries and their staff provide essential services to EPA staff and to the general public, such as finding the most current information on health risks of chemical substances, providing documentation in enforcement cases against corporate polluters, and helping to prepare scientific support for new regulations.
- Shuttering the EPA libraries means that:
- Tens of thousands of unique holdings will be boxed up and inaccessible for an unknown period;
- Public access to EPA holdings has been dramatically curtailed; and
- EPA scientists, enforcement agents and other specialists will have a much harder time doing their jobs. See EPA scientists letter of protest to Congress.
While cloaked as a budgetary measure, the actual motives appear to have been rooted more in controlling access by both EPA staff and the public to information. (An internal EPA study estimated that the library network saved approximately $7.5 million annually in professional staff time, an amount far larger than the agency library budget of $2.5 million.)
In December 2007, Congress ordered EPA to restore library services across the country and earmarked funds for that purpose. EPA staff remain concerned about the effectiveness of a restoration effort overseen by the same people that worked to destroy the network.
Find out more about the Bush administration campaign against environmental information.
See scathing Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on EPA library closures.