Washington, DC — Under President Bush’s proposed budget, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is slated to shut down its network of libraries that serve its own scientists as well as the public, according to internal agency documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). In addition to the libraries, the agency will pull the plug on its electronic catalog which tracks tens of thousands of unique documents and research studies that are available nowhere else.
Under Bush’s plan, $2 million of a total agency library budget of $2.5 million will be lost, including the entire $500,000 budget for the EPA Headquarters library and its electronic catalog that makes it possible to search for documents through the entire EPA library network. These reductions are just a small portion of the $300 million in cuts the administration has proposed for EPA operations.
At the same time, President Bush is proposing to significantly increase EPA research funding for topics such as nanotechnology, air pollution and drinking water system security as part of his “American Competitive Initiative.”
“How are EPA scientists supposed to engage in cutting edge research when they cannot find what the agency has already done?” asked PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson is moving to implement the proposed cuts as soon as possible. “The President’s plan will not make us more competitive if we have to spend half our time re-inventing the wheel.”
EPA’s own scientists and enforcement staff are the principal library users. EPA’s scientists use the libraries to research questions such as the safety of chemicals and the environmental effects of new technologies. EPA enforcement staff use the libraries to obtain technical information to support pollution prosecutions and to track the business histories of regulated industries.
EPA currently operates a network of 27 libraries operating out of its Washington, D.C. Headquarters and ten regional offices across the country. The size of the cuts will force the Headquarters library and most of the regional libraries to shut their doors and cease operations. Each year, the EPA libraries –
- Handle more than 134,000 research requests from its own scientific and enforcement staff;
- House and catalog an estimated 50,000 “unique” documents that are available nowhere else; and
- Operate public reading rooms and provide the public with access to EPA databases.
“Access to information is one of the best tools we have for protecting the environment,” added Ruch, calling the cuts the “epitome of penny wise and pound foolish.” “By contrast, closing the Environmental Protection Agency libraries actually threatens to subtract from the sum total of human knowledge.”