WASHINGTON—American Federation of Government Employees Council of EPA Local #238 Charles Orzehoskie today told Congress that in his 37 years of service with the Environmental Protection Agency, he had never experienced such an unprecedented level of political consideration in the performance of EPA’s mission.
“This political influence threatens the integrity of EPA engineers and scientists, and undermines the very mission of the agency,” Orzehoskie said before the House Committee on Science and Technology Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight. “EPA should return to making decisions that are based upon reasonably obtainable economic and technical information, as well as upon peer-reviewed sound science. Initiating these changes now, would improve EPA staff morale, and subsequently help accomplish EPA’s mission.”
Orzehoskie’s testimony coincided with the release of a report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office that found that EPA’s effort to close regional and research libraries around the country was seriously flawed. GAO reported that “EPA did not effectively justify its decision to reorganize its library network; the final network configuration is still uncertain; EPA lacks a strategy to ensure continuity of library services and does not know whether its actions have impaired access to environmental information; EPA lacked oversight of the reorganization process and does not have procedures that would allow the agency to measure performance and monitor user needs; and that additional funds were not allocated to assist offices in closing their libraries.” GAO recommended—and EPA agreed to—continue its moratorium on further changes until it takes suggested corrective actions.
In his testimony, Orzehoskie thanked Congress for providing an additional $1 million in the FY08 budget to help reopen the closed EPA libraries, but expressed concern that the funding may be insufficient to get all of the closed libraries back to full service, address the reduced service at remaining libraries, and address the reduced periodical subscriptions. Further, he pointed out that there is no funding to rehire research librarians who play a critical role at EPA’s libraries. Orzehoskie also requested aggressive oversight by Congress to ensure that EPA successfully reopens and restores its libraries in a timely and effective manner.
Only a few weeks ago, a federal arbitrator found EPA guilty of unfair labor practices and acting in bad faith with regards to the library closures. EPA was ordered to bargain with unions before making any further changes in its library network.