New Post May 1, 2019. (by Bill Hirzy) On April 23 and 24 a symposium on the future of the Environmental Protection Agency was held at American University. /it was organized and operated jointly by the EPA Alumni Association and the university. The first day’s proceedings were available on the YouTube site of the American University School of Public Service website.
I distributed the thought piece, titled “EPA 2045 – A Staff Perspective, below to about 70 of the 100 or so participants before the first day session. This piece was an expansion of contributions I made to Work Group 5 of the Alumni Association’s efforts toward developing an agenda for the symposium.
EPA 2045 – A Staff Perspective
- William Hirzy, Ph.D.
It goes without saying that work to overcome the global environmental challenges now confronting us must begin now, not decades or even just years from now. It also goes without saying that citizens of the United States – and of the world – rightly expect and demand that the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency operate with the words environmental protection as its lodestar.
This conference is a venue for charting a course by which the Agency can do what is expected of it. I write this piece as a past president of an EPA labor Union that was organized expressly with those expectations in mind, i.e., to enable environmental professionals to do their work in conformity with the highest standards of their respective professions. Political influence over their work would be – and was – actively opposed. There have been many examples of political interference with good environmental practice that reflect dishonor and bring public opprobrium upon the Agency. For example –
The recent ruling by Federal Judge Linda Parker in a lawsuit brought by victims of the Flint, Michigan water disaster that the “government is not immune” from such a suit is but one, recent, example of the failure of EPA to take heed of scientific evidence of harm pointed out by a staff member, Miguel Del Toral.
The shoddy, unwarranted treatment of Dr. Ruth Etzel as director of the Office of Children’s Health Protection is another that brought national shame to EPA.
While these two examples reflect high-level political influence that make a mockery of the Agency’s mission, there are many others that are less well publicized, but nevertheless are felt in more direct, detailed staff work. A chemical engineer came to my Union office complaining of her supervisor’s orders about reporting effluent monitoring data. She said, “He told me that he was the boss, and if he said, ‘2 + 2 = 7, its your job to support me.’”
This cannot continue.
While I was Labor Co-Chair of the EPA National Partnership Council in the late 1990’s, the Council developed EPA’s Principles of Scientific Integrity (PSI), which it was hoped would prevent such management abuse. EPA’s Office of General Counsel, however, refused to permit the PSI to contain a mechanism for adjudicating disputes, so the PSI was – and remains to this day- mere window dressing that management trots out when needed in responding to Congressional investigations or other embarrassments. See attached: “At EPA, Unions Break From Management.”
Here, then is a proposal – developed from the hard and frustrating struggles of organized labor trying to represent staff– only a few of which are delineated in this piece – which if adopted, will address part of the Agency’s need to move swiftly and effectively toward overcoming the challenges of the future. By making cooperation and coordination between staff and management a more collegial affair true team spirit will replace contention and EPA can perform as expected – once more taking its rightful place among the very best places in the federal government to work.
Staff/Management Coordination and Empowerment
The EPA Principles of Scientific Integrity will be amended through negotiations with the Agency’s labor unions to include a mechanism for adjudicating disputes.
Empowering staff as well as managers to identify potential improvements and corrections to system weaknesses will make the Agency more effective and innovative. This will require sustained commitment from the highest levels of the Agency, and political support from outside.
Staff will be active participants with management in identifying problems to be addressed and in planning how to address them. Processes to implement this mode of operation will be developed jointly.
Disagreements will occur from time to time among sincere, committed environmental professionals. In matters involving interpretation and evaluation of scientific inputs, only employees well qualified by education, training and experience will be decision makers, using EPA’s Principles of Scientific Integrity as guidance. External peer review will be used upon request by any party to the dispute.
Each Regional and Headquarters Assistant Administrator will establish an appropriate sized staff/management team to carry out these arrangements.
March 27, 2000
Principles of Scientific Integrity
It is essential that EPA’s scientific and technical activities be of the highest quality and credibility if EPA is to carry out its responsibilities to protect human health and the environment. Honesty and integrity in its activities and decision-making processes are vital if the American public is to have trust and confidence in EPA’s decisions. EPA adheres to these Principles of Scientific Integrity.
EPA employees, whatever their grade, job or duties, must:
Ensure that their work is of the highest integrity – this means that the work must be performed objectively and without predetermined outcomes using the most appropriate techniques. Employees are responsible and accountable for the integrity and validity of their own work. Fabrication or falsification of work results are direct assaults on the integrity of EPA and will not be tolerated.
Represent their own work fairly and accurately. When representing the work of others, employees must seek to understand the results and the implications of this work and also represent it fairly and accurately.
Respect and acknowledge the intellectual contributions of others in representing their work to the public or in published writings such as journal articles or technical reports. To do otherwise is plagiarism. Employees should also refrain from taking credit for work with which they were not materially involved.
Avoid financial conflicts of interest and ensure impartiality in the performance of their duties by respecting and adhering to the principles of ethical conduct and implementing standards contained in Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch and in supplemental
Be cognizant of and understand the specific, programmatic statutes that guide the employee’s work.
Accept the affirmative responsibility to report any breach of these principles.
Welcome differing views and opinions on scientific and technical matters as a legitimate and necessary part of the process to provide the best possible information to regulatory and policy decision-makers.
Adherence by all EPA employees to these principles will assure the American people that they can have confidence and trust in EPA’s work and in its decisions.
 Dr. Hirzy is a charter member and past president of the Headquarters labor Union, and served as Labor Co-Chair of the National Partnership Council during the Clinton Administration.
 The PSI, attached, originated in drafts of a professional ethics section of a collective bargaining agreement proposed by our labor union in 1985.
 For more examples of how EPA’s labor unions, and in particular Local 2050 of the National Federation of Federal Employees and Chapter 280 of the National Treasury Employees Union have carried out their work, as well as information on how and why they organized and how they interacted with the public and other labor unions, go to http://www.epaunionhistory.org
New Posts (2) February 7, 2019. Both these posts are related to the Trump Lockout/Shutdown. The first is a final report email message from Chuck Elkins – whose brain child the Operation was – on the EPA Alumni Association’s “Operation $hutdown $upport, through which alumni provided aid to needy locked out employees. The second is notice of a high and well-deserved honor accorded Amer Al-Mudallal, President of NTEU Chapter 280 by Representative Gerald Connelly, who invited Amer to attend the State of the Union address as a representative of all federal employees affected by the Lockout.
1. What a team effort! You can be very proud. As a group we distributed $36,500 in $20 increments to 165 EPA employees/SEE enrollees who especially needed our help during the recent government shutdown. That was over 1800 separate transactions, and I know from your emails that many of you experienced some very frustrating interactions with the companies that sell e-gift cards.
We received numerous emails of thanks from the recipients, many of them wanting to thank you individually for your gifts.
Many of you expressed sympathy for those of us doing the “Back Office” portion of this effort. Those emails were much appreciated. The administrative portion of the effort was overwhelming, but I was lucky to have the help of Bob Wayland, Barry Gilbert, and Phyllis Flaherty. At the initial stages, I also had the help of Bill Hirzy who connected us with the EPA unions who helped us get the word out to EPA employees.
Thanks to all of you for your generosity. It exceeded our wildest expectations.
Chuck Elkins, Executive Director
EPA Alumni Association
2. Connolly to Take Furloughed Federal Employee to the State of the Union
Washington, D. C. – Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-VA), chairman of the House Government Operations subcommittee, announced today that he will take Amer Al-Mudallal, a Fairfax constituent, to the State of the Union. Amer is a chemist at the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, Office of Pesticides Programs, Registration Division. Both Amer and his wife, who also works at the EPA, were furloughed during the 35-day shutdown. Amer currently serves as Chapter President of NTEU Chapter 280. Amer has worked at EPA for more than 22 years.
“We all recognize the importance of border security but I’m disappointed to see the suffering of Federal employees and their families being used for political gain,” said Amer Al-Mudallal.
“Families like Amer’s, who are committed to public service and just want to serve their country, shouldn’t be held hostage by the President during a government shutdown,” Connolly said. “I want to thank Amer and his wife for the sacrifices they’ve made, and I hope they know we will continue to work to protect federal employees.”
Amer’s experience is detailed here.
Jamie Smith, Communications Director
Congressman Gerald E. Connolly
11th District of Virginia
New Post: January 23, 2019. During the current Lockout (a.k.a. partial government shutdown) of federal government employees and related private sector personnel, the EPA Alumni Association in partnership with EPA labor unions is running Operation $hutdown $upport for affected EPA employees. As of yesterday funds contributed by EPA alumni totalling over $12,000 have been distributed to hard-pressed EPA workers. This is a demonstration of Partnership of a high order. The idea of this program was conceived by Chuck Elkins, who was Director of the Office of Toxic Substances during my tenure at the Agency. Chuck contacted me as a way of getting Agency organized labor to spread the word about it.
For a detailed history of how this unique partnership operation was implemented go to the Collective Bargaining/Partnership Page of this website.
New Post: December 23, 2018. Links to 11 documents have been added on the Fluoride page of the website that show how the union attempted to work “within the family” on the question of applying principles of scientific integrity to regulation of hazards of fluoride in drinking water. Members of the union began in 1985 to try to bring ethical science to bear on this question. At least one such member, albeit in retired status, continues to this day in this effort.
New Post October 10, 2018 Links to three documents that bear on NFFE Local 2050’s early activities on fluoride toxicity. The documents are the Report of the Surgeon General’s Ad Hoc Committe on Non-dental Effects of Fluoride, EPA’s Criteria Document justifying the drinking water standards set in 1985 that are still in effect, and the lawsuit filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council v. EPA over the health based standard – which Local 2050 joined as amicus curiae.
Also a subpage to the Fluoride page has been created and discusses costs associated with use of HFSA and pharmaceutical sodium fluoride as fluoridating agents.
New Post August 5, 2018 Bill Hirzy has been working with one of five focus groups of EPA alumni on a project to envision, in essence, what EPA should look like in 2025. He was impressed with the dedication and hard work of all the alumni who are contributing to this project. His suggested text, below in italics, for dealing with staff concerns about scientific integrity and their ability to most effectively contribute to a better functioning Agency was adopted in his focus group’s final report.
2. Staff/Management Coordination and Empowerment Empowering staff as well as managers to identify potential improvements and correct systemic weaknesses can make the Agency more effective and innovative. This will require a sustained commitment from the highest levels of the Agency.
In this iteration of the Agency, staff will be active participants with management in identifying problems to be addressed and in planning how to address them. Processes to implement this mode of operation should be developed jointly by all participants with a stake in the process.
The focus group recognizes that disagreements will occur from time to time among sincere, committed environmental professionals. In matters involving interpretation and evaluation of scientific inputs, managers and staff qualified by education, training and experience should be the decision makers in resolving differences in professional judgments as they arise, using EPA’s Principles of Scientific Integrity as guidance. (Appendix C)
New Post July 31,2018: Significant Documents re: Official Time Posted During the Toxic Carpet incident and subsequent battles, EPA made a doomed attempt to bust the union by severely restricting its members’ and officers’ use of official time to less than one full time person (a.k.a. 1 FTE – or “one full-time equivalent) at a time when about six members/officers were working on the problem. That work included (as the Toxic Carpet Page explains) dealing with employees injuries and inability to work in their normal office spaces, filing and followup on a petition to the Agency concerning the problem, and responding to a torrent of inquiries from the public about it after major media picked up the story.
The newly posted documents illustrate how the union won the right to bargain for adequate official time in an appeal to the Federal Labor Relations Authority and garnered support from the public and Congress that not only fought off those attempting to destroy the union, but ultimately resulted the union’s acquiring 4 FTE’s for officers, adequate official time for stewards, and decently equipped office space.
Once NFFE Local 2050, representing the professional bargaining unit, won these rights, EPA granted 5 FTE’s, along with office space, for our sister union, AFGE Local 3331, representing the non-professional bargaining unit.
New Post April 8, 2018 When the Gorsuch Administratorship crashed in 1982 from ethical catastrophes, EPA staffer and whistleblower extrordinaire, Hugh Kaufman, created this cartoon which was posted on bulletin boards around Headquarters.Die Opera ist Kaput (This was more than 10 years before email communication at HQ became available.)
Sensing a dejavu moment approaching, and employing technology 30+ years more advanced than what Hugh Kaufman had available, some people here in DC, observing the sleaze at the head of the Agency now, have posted these gems all around Capitol Hill. The phone number on the tear-out response tabs at the bottom is for the EPA Public Information Office.
Pruitt’s sound proof phone booth, biometric office door locks, bullet proof desk, platoons of security details and first-class airline seats (when he doesn’t take private jets) may show up in future around-town postings like this one. Stay tuned!
New Post November 29, 2017 More documents have been posted on the main Toxic Carpet page and the sub page on the Carpet policy Dialogue. These provide substantial documentation on how EPA management bent far over to protect the (then) $9 billion/year carpet industry. See, especially, the Indoor Environment ’93 material on the Carpet Dialogue page titled “Re-Inventing Government and History.”
New Post November 27, 2017 A professor at the University of California-Davis contacted us after reading the material on this website, particularly the material on Toxic Carpet and the Carpet Policy Dialogue. As a result we have today posted new material related to that work and EPA management’s attempts to silence the union’s voice on that subject in particular and on other scientific integrity issues in general. This new Post is on the EPA Attempts to Bust the Union page. Here is a link to one of the items that also appears on that page. Health Freedom News Article
We think this new Post is a significant piece of organized labor history worthy of your reading.
New Post August 19, 2017 All available print editions of Inside the Fishbowl – through 2001 – are now viewable on the News Letters page. Up to 2001 print editions had been printed and distributed by EPA management to bargaining unit members under contract. In 2001 a new contract provided that EPA would make available a web platform to host the union’s website, which would publish the ‘Bowl and other information that the union and management agreed was in the public interest. On-line editions – through 2008 – have been preserved and are being edited to make them compatible with the platform supporting epaunionhistory.org. They will be posted later this month.
New Post June 20, 2017 Letter to EPA’s Office of General Counsel at headquarters from three EPA Region 9 union presidents, Thelma Estrada, AFGE Local 1236; Patrick Chan, NTEU Chapter 295; and Mark Sims of Engineers and Scientists of California, IFPTE Local 20 regarding Fisrt Amendment rights of EPA employees.Ethics Letter – R9 Unions to OGC 03-24-2017
New Post May 15 2017 copy/pasted from EPA Alumni Association email of May 14, 2017 featuring a visit by Rep. Deb Dingell to the Ann Arbor Laboratory. The visit was hosted by AFGE Local 3907 and the AFGE National Council of EPA Unions.
Thanks to the EPA Alumni Association for providing this material.
New Post, April 30, 2017
EPA Unions represented at the March for the Environment, April 29, 2017. Our sign is next to the Globe, in the second rank.
Photo of EPA HQ union presence at the March for Science, April 22, 2017. At left, holding banner, Amer Al-Mudallal, Executive Vice-President, far left, side view of Chief Steward, Anne-Marie Pastorkovich, right side of banner, Secretary Toby Jeong, holding”We need EPA,” Steward Denise Walker, Bill Hirzy behind “EPA Unions Fighting….” sign. EPA HQ Union at March for ScienceEPA HQ Union at March for Science
Two other links regarding NTEU Chapter 280’s efforts on scientific integrity are below…..
“Rejuvenating Federal Sector Science” was the topic of a conference called by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, and a presentation at that conference caught my eye today (April 23, 2017). I was looking through historical documents to post on this website and ran across that presentation. Although it was given 9 years ago, in July 2008, the presentation speaks clearly to the theme of yesterday’s March for Science. Here is the link to it.Protecting Federal Sector Scientists
Later that year the union was invited to make a presentation at Harvard University’s School of Law, along with other unions, on the subject of representing professional employees in science and technology workplaces.Representing Professionals in Science, Engineering and Technology