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Investigations into the Closure of EPA Libraries

 On March 13, 2008, UCS Senior Scientist Francesca Grifo testified before the House Science and Technology Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee on the impact of the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) 2006 decision to close or reduce access to parts of its library network. The subcommittee reviewed a Government Accountability Office report criticizing the way EPA handled the closures. Dr. Grifo discussed an independent UCS investigation showing that hundreds of EPA scientists believe the library closures impaired their work to protect our nation's health, safety, and environment. Read her testimony, including UCS recommendations.

EPA began closing libraries in the fall of 2006 as part of an inadequate modernization plan that potentially puts decades' worth of valuable information beyond the reach of government scientists and the public. UCS immediately mobilized scientists and activists to make nearly 8,000 phone calls to EPA headquarters demanding a halt to the closures. We believe that this outcry from the scientific community, together with attention from both the House and the Senate, the EPA employee unions, the library community and other non-profit organizations, was instrumental in convincing the EPA to stop and reassess its plan for the library network.

Unfortunately, though we continue to monitor the situation and meet with EPA officials to voice our concerns, we have seen very little progress in repairing the damage already done to the library network. Congress has allocated funds to re-open some of the closed libraries, yet it remains unclear how long that process will take.  UCS urges continued oversight of the EPA until adequate access to EPA library materials is consistently available to agency employees and the public. Without ease of access to information, the efficiency and accuracy of EPA's scientific determinations are under threat– with potentially serious consequences for public health and the environment.

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