Can you handle the truth?

Of all the Bush administration’s environmental sins, perhaps the most egregious is its erosion of the public’s right to know. Consider the following - a smorgasbord of censorship and suppression:

  • Ironically, the Environmental Protection Agency - the very body charged with defending our environment - has been one of the worst offenders. Exhibit A: The agency’s evisceration of the Toxic Release Inventory, a vital database requiring companies to report spills and leakages of toxic chemicals.
  • The EPA also closed its libraries, limiting public access to information and preventing its own employees from doing their job. Adding insult to injury, agency officials falsely claimed the library holdings would be made available online, then blamed the closures on non-existent budget cuts.
  • It’s not just the public - lawmakers apparently can’t be trusted with the truth either. The White House has glossed over inconvenient truths in its presentations to Congress - most notoriously by doctoring congressional testimony delivered by Centers for Disease Control director Julie Gerberding, deleting each and every reference to the health risks posed by climate change.
  • Of course, the best way to keep information out of the public domain is to stop journalists from reporting it. That’s why the Bush administration effectively eliminated the Office of Government Information Services, which handled the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests crucial to investigative reporting, and is now seeking to block a federal shield law allowing reporters to protect confidential whistleblowers.
  • Scientists have also been singled out for special treatment. Perhaps the most troubling pattern has been the White House’s manipulation of the scientific evidence for climate change; still, as the Union of Concerned Scientists’ periodic table of political interference shows, it doesn’t stop there: Environmental researchers at virtually every government agency have come under attack.

These are just a handful of the more recent offenses; still, they paint a troubling picture. It’s one thing to be governed by people who don’t care about green issues, and quite another to have leaders who think we can’t handle the truth about the state of our environment. After all, if we don’t know what’s wrong, how can we try to fix it?

That’s not likely to change on Bush’s watch. Still, there’s a glimmer of light on the horizon: The EPA is currently holding a public consultation to determine what kinds of environmental information the public actually wants to be made available. If we shout loud enough, it might just convince the next president to make sure that the new administration is more transparent and more accountable. You can leave a comment for the EPA online - click here to have your say.


Hi Ben, thanks for the link. You also might be interested in the new Union of Concerned Scientists report on political interference at the EPA. The investigation reveals an agency under siege: hundreds of scientists reported political interference in their work, significant barriers to the free communication of scientific results, and concerns about the agency's effectiveness. These findings highlight the need for strong reforms to protect EPA scientists, make agency decision making more transparent, and reduce politicization of the regulatory process.