The Committee on Science Integration for Decision Making is still working on its investigation, but has quietly posted draft summaries on the agency's Web site of 73 interviews with 450 EPA employees -- an unusual bottom-up examination that could bring sweeping changes to the 40-year-old federal agency. Some staffers traced the problems in the agency to the Bush administration, while others said the obstacles are longstanding and continue to this day.
EPA has an enormous mandate -- protecting air, water, land and human health from environmental pollutants. While some staffers gave the agency high marks, the interviews overall portray an organization that has been hobbled by political pressure to avoid damaging industry; has lacked sufficient scientists in regional offices; has been slow to act against known hazards, and has had a tendency to let products with harmful pollutants enter the marketplace and the environment without first ensuring their safety.
The review of the EPA followed accusations by a former agency official that President George W. Bush had pressured agency employees to water down concerns of global climate change, a Government Accountability Office report criticizing the agency's toxic chemical review process, and stern recommendations by the National Research Council, a division of the National Academy of Sciences.