PRESS RELEASE

EPA Scientists Sound Alarm on Chemical Assessments

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For Immediate Release:  Wednesday, February 24, 2021
Contact:  Kirsten Stade kstade@peer.org

EPA Scientists Sound Alarm on Chemical Assessments

Agency’s Toxic Internal Chemistry Reflected in New Employee Survey

Washington, DC — Scientists inside the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency who conduct evaluations of chemicals’ harmful effects have issued a stinging vote of no confidence in their program leaders in a new federal employee survey.  These negative survey results coincide with mounting reports of malfeasance inside EPA’s chemical assessment programs, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

The release of the annual Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey for 2020 conducted by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management contains disturbing answers from EPA specialists, particularly from its Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics (OPPT), and its Risk Assessment Division (RAD) which reviews toxicity of new and existing chemicals. Noteworthy results include:

“I can disclose a suspected violation of any law, rule or regulation without fear of reprisal.”

EPA: 20% negative
OPPT: 43% negative
RAD: 56.1% negative (highest of any division in OPPT)

“My organization’s senior leaders maintain high standards of honesty and integrity.”

EPA: 28.1% negative
OPPT: 60.4% negative
RAD: 64.6% negative

“Considering everything, how satisfied are you with your organization?”

EPA: 19.3% negative
OPPT: 53.8% negative
RAD: 58.2% negative

“It should be of grave concern that more than half the EPA chemists and other specialists working on crucial public health concerns do not feel free to report problems or flag violations,” stated PEER Executive Director Tim Whitehouse, a former EPA enforcement attorney, noting the scientists register strong support for first line supervisors but disdain for senior management.  “Not only are these morale ratings bad but they have been getting steadily worse.”

These survey results follow on the heels of a scathing National Academies report faulting how these same EPA units evaluate the health risks of chemical exposures.  The Biden-led EPA has embraced this report, but it is not clear what reforms will be implemented.

“EPA’s new leadership will have its hands full righting this sinking ship,” added Whitehouse, noting that scientist complaints point to senior civil service managers, as well as political appointees. “Something is rotten in EPA and these survey results help identify a key cluster of bad apple managers.”

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Look at 2020 Federal Employee Viewpoint survey report on OPPT

See scathing National Academies report on EPA chemical assessments