The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s mission is clearly outlined in its name. But four agency whistleblowers and watchdogs have stepped forward, claiming that agency management regularly falsified analysis of new chemical compounds initially flagged by researchers for high toxicity. Management made them appear safe and then quickly cleared them for commercial use. This information would seem to be supported because the agency has not rejected a chemical submission since 2015.
The whistleblowers claimed that there was a revolving door between the agency and chemical manufacturers, claiming the EPA had been “captured by the industry.” The whistleblowers supported these claims with documents, emails and additional evidence.
Mangers act with impunity
Based on the actions of other Trump appointees attempting to dismantle or alter several federal agencies’ goals, one could assume that Trump administration appointees were responsible. Instead, the efforts to systematically undermine scientists’ research were by managers (government employees and not appointees) during the Obama administration and carried on through Trump’s and Biden’s.
The whistleblowers in part claim:
- Management altered submitted reports without notifying the authors.
- Management asked scientists with less expertise to sign off the altered reports.
- Management requested changes to one risk assessment and transferred a scientist who refused to comply.
- Cases in dispute between researchers and the manufacturers were referred to as “hair on fire” or “HOF,” and they were then directly expedited by management daily.
- Management appeared to prevent scientists from comparing notes (which is usually part of a complete risk assessment) about research on new chemicals.
- Management was so emboldened that in 2020 it inquired about a button to eliminate all research from reports during a recorded meeting with a software contractor.
- Management punished employees who did not conclude their analysis within 90 days, which scientists claim is too short of a window.
Financial gain over health and safety
The allegations also state that management regularly moving back and forth between the EPA and the manufacturers, often using their approval track record at the EPA to land lucrative jobs with the manufacturers.
Based on this damning evidence, the managers appear to discard the goal of protecting the health of humans and the environment in favor of personal gain. They also apparently berated, bullied and threatened scientists who did not fall into line. Not surprisingly, this assault on the scientific process left EPA scientists demoralized.
The EPA inspector general is currently conducting an investigation, but the EPA typically ignores their recommendations. The next step would be to get Congress’s House committee on energy and commerce involved. So far, the committee sent a letter to the EPA head, calling the whistleblowers’ claims “troubling.”