Tuesday, July 29, 2008

EPA TELLS STAFF NOT TO TALK TO GOVERNMENT WATCHDOGS

Renee Schoof, McClatchy Newspapers - The Environmental Protection Agency has told its staff not to answer questions from the agency's internal watchdog, news reporters or the nonpartisan investigative arm of Congress, according an internal memo that an environmental group released. The June 16 memo to the staff of the EPA's enforcement division told them that if they're contacted by the EPA inspector general's office, an independent internal watchdog that monitors the agency, or by the Government Accountability Office, the investigators who work for Congress, they're to forward the call or e-mail to a designated person.

"Please do not respond to questions or make any statements," it adds. The memo sets down the same procedure, with different contact people, for queries from reporters.

EPA spokeswoman Roxanne Smith wouldn't say whether any specific incident triggered the memo, but said it was consistent with existing policies and intended to coordinate responses.

John Walke, a former EPA air pollution attorney, said the inspector general's office ordinarily has unfettered access to agency employees so they can speak candidly and anonymously.