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For Immediate Release: Jul 26, 2005
Contact: Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337


Inspector General Opens Investigation; PR Execs Now Running Labs

Washington, DC — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is unfurling a “multi-year” public relations campaign, including public service announcements, video news releases plus “major events, tours and advance [work]” to repair its tattered image for letting politics alter its scientific work, according to agency documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The campaign began earlier this year and runs through September 2007.

This ambitious rollout features a media campaign called “Science for You” and is being run out of EPA’s scientific arm, called the Office of Research and Development. The effort also includes –

  • Operating a “radio and television news director science awareness program;”
  • Placing “feature” media accounts;
  • Developing a “print and virtual press media kit”; and
  • Conducting a “readership/product use survey.”

Due to leadership turnover, the senior ORD official not in an acting capacity is a Bush appointee who spent his earlier career in public relations. Associate Assistant Administrator Michael Brown is a former top advertising executive with Fleishman-Hilliard and handled accounts for clients such as Starbucks, Bass ale, Snapper tools and Georgia Natural Gas. Brown has surrounded himself with other PR professionals who are setting policy for the more than 5,000-scientist branch of EPA responsible for long-term research on human health and environmental effects of pollutants.

“Spin doctors are not scientists, but at EPA spin doctors are supervising scientists and setting research priorities,” stated PEER Program Director Rebecca Roose. “The problems at EPA run much deeper than a failure to communicate.”

This public relations effort is being financed out of funds that could otherwise be used for public health and environmental research. Last week PEER filed a complaint with EPA’s Office of Inspector General to review the legality and the propriety of using tax dollars on “corporate image” enhancement. In a letter dated July 22, 2005, the Office of Inspector General announced that it had begun a review.

Communications contracts are already being issued to media firms to lay the groundwork for the ad rollout and “branding” efforts. PEER is also looking into the prior associations and other ties that winning firms have with the EPA staff making contract decisions.

“What exactly is the difference between this EPA image offensive and government financed propaganda?” asked Roose. “Doubts about the integrity of agency science should be worked out within the scientific community not in media blitzes and ad campaigns.”


See the “Multi-Year Annual Work Program” for EPA/ORD Public Affairs and Science Communication

Look at the Letter from the EPA Office of Inspector General

Find out more about EPA spending millions of research dollars on spin campaign