Archive for the ‘Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility’ Category

Creeping Corporatization of National Parks

January 27, 2012 Comments off
Source:  Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility
As the National Park System prepares for its centennial in 2016 it is turning toward corporate funding for support, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). A core strategy announced by National Park Service (NPS) leaders in August 2011 is creating a billion dollar corporate-financed endowment outside the federal appropriation process.
Today through January 26th, an invitation-only summit in Washington, DC focuses on how to build support for the NPS agenda, called a Call to Action.  While not hosted by the NPS, the summit is being staged by the National Park Foundation, the congressionally-chartered fundraising arm for NPS, and the network representing park vendors and concessionaires.  “America’s Summit on National Parks” does, however, feature NPS and Interior Department officials from both the Obama and Bush administrations.
One of the main financial sponsors of the summit is Coca Cola, which recently leveraged its substantial contributions channeled through the National Park Foundation to temporarily block a ban on disposable plastic water bottle sales at Grand Canyon National Park.  Coca Cola is a major water bottler whose products would have been affected. Five weeks after the company’s role was exposed in November 2011, NPS backed off its veto of Grand Canyon’s plans.

See how corporate contributions confer access and influence (PDF)
Look at the Coca Cola Proud Partner agreement (PDF)
Revisit Coke role in blocking plastic bottle ban
View Coke sponsorship of the summit
Examine the NPS Call to Action (Step # 29) (PDF)

Manatee Safeguards Limits Undermine Effectiveness

August 25, 2011 Comments off

Manatee Safeguards Limits Undermine Effectiveness
Source: Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility

A plan to expand protections in the largest wintering habitat for the endangered Florida manatee are welcome but wanting, according to formal comments filed today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Restrictions on the amount of human interaction with manatees, including popular “swim-with” diving operations, are at the heart of the controversy.

This June, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) proposed to broaden and make permanent emergency measures it had adopted last November to prevent growing harassment of manatees by boaters, anglers and divers. FWS proposes to expand an existing series of manatee sanctuaries to encompass all of Kings Bay, on Florida’s central Gulf coast. Under the plan, boating speeds would be restricted and manatee-safe fishing gear would be required. In addition, for the first time FWS would list specific actions, such as chasing or kicking manatees, which would be prohibited but only in Kings Bay.

In March 2010, PEER filed a Notice of Intent to Sue under the Endangered Species Act on the grounds that agency inaction was interfering with the recovery of the endangered manatee. That summer, FWS representatives asked PEER to hold off filing suit while it finalized new protective measures – a process that has culminated in the current proposal. PEER argues that this latest proposal is deficient because:

  • Key manatee habitat, including the only access to and egress from the habitat have no boat speed limits or other restrictions, leaving manatees vulnerable as they come and go from Kings Bay;
  • FWS failed to propose limits on the number of swim-with operators as well as bans on weights, fins or other propulsion aids which faciltate harassment. Instead, FWS opted for a narrow list of prohibited acts which have loopholes and enforcability weaknesses; and
  • Protections are limited to Kings Bay, suggesting that kicking , chasing or feeding of manatees is permissable elsewhere.

EPA Posts Pathetically Weak Scientific Integrity Proposal

August 12, 2011 Comments off

EPA Posts Pathetically Weak Scientific Integrity Proposal
Source: Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proposing a scientific integrity policy that affirms the status quo while codifying absolute agency control over scientific information presented to the media, Congress and peers, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The plan was developed under President Obama’s 2009 directive that agencies adopt rules prohibiting political interference with science, promoting transparency and extending whistleblower protection to scientists. Yet, the EPA proposal appears to accomplish none of these objectives.

Posted last Friday afternoon, the 12-page EPA proposal consists largely of lofty rhetoric lauding current practices. Its sole pronouncement on a key issue says the agency “expects EPA scientists and engineers, regardless of grade level, position or duties to: Ensure that their work is of the highest integrity, free from political influence.” This implies that it is up to scientists to fight off management interference but the draft policy provides them no tools for doing so.

By contrast, the proposal clearly authorizes managers and public affairs officials to screen information:

  • Any contact with the media must adhere to “EPA’s and their Program Office’s or Region’s clearance procedures associated with ensuring accuracy and disseminating scientific information and scientific assessments” yet these clearance procedures are not laid out. Plus, “public affairs staff’ is told to “attend interviews to ensure that the Agency is being fully responsive to media questions and to ensure…consistency…”
  • Scientists’ ability to publish or present papers is “subject to any management approval that may be required…” and
  • Even private statements by EPA staff with an appropriate disclaimer could be sanctioned for failure to “represent the results of their scientific activities…objectively, thoroughly, and …consistent with their official responsibilities.”

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