Despite growing concerns about political interference with science, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is requiring prior headquarters approval for all communications by its scientists with the media, according to an internal EPA e-mail that was released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The document in PDF format:  EPA_media_email_15Feb06.pdf

Ann Brown, the News Director for the agencys science arm, the Office of Research and Development (ORD), wrote in a “Media Procedure Reminder” to EPA personnel:

We are asked to remind all employees that EPA’s standard media procedure is to refer all media queries regarding ORD to Ann Brown, ORD News Director, prior to agreeing to or conducting any interviews. The purpose of this policy is to enable the Agency to clarify the request, and to ensure that the reporter talks with appropriate experts on science, budget, or administrative issues. Support for this policy also will allow reasonable time for appropriate management response.

The PEER news release notes:  Scientists often fall outside the coverage of whistleblower protection laws and thus, scientists who violate agency gag rules may be punished for insubordination. Corrective legislation (HR 839 by Representative Waxman and S 1358 by Senator Richard Durbin) that would grant scientists the right to openly discuss their findings is pending before both houses of Congress.