Bill Coniglio on Good Science at EPA Bill Coniglio was a Plank Holder employee at EPA, the leader of the drive to organize the professional bargaining unit labor union, the union’s first president and chief ethical guide through out his tenure at the Agency. He was asked by Bob Carton, another EPA Plank Holder, for advice when Bob was to make a presentation to the Loehr Commission on use of science at EPA. Here is what Bill sent Bob in response: This short exposition of Coniglio’s wisdom is no less than a concise statement of how EPA ought to do its work in protecting public health and the environment, using the skills of its professional staff and conscientious managers.

Bill Coniglio was a mentor to Bob Carton and me (Bill Hirzy). During Coniglio’s time in the early years of NFFE Local 2050’s existence, he established

At the Cente for Science in the Public Interest conference on Rejuvenating Federal Sector Science, held at Harvard University on July 11, 2008, the presentation linked below was made by Bill Hirzy.  The speech was published in the on-line Volume 19 (2008) of Inside the Fishbowl that was available to EPA HQ staff via the NTEU Chapter 280 website that year.



March for Science 2017

Caption: Behind the “N,” Amer Al-Mudallal, Chapter 280 President, at Amer’s immediate left, Bill Hirzy.

By scrolling down to “Dietrich’s Law,” you will get a crash course in how government can be a frustrating, career-damaging place to work – sometimes. And why whistleblower protection moieties like unions and organizations like the Government Accountability Project (GAP) and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) are vital to good government.

There is a wealth of other references to the union’s fight for scientific integrity on the Toxic Carpet and Fluoride and Organophosphates/Malathion Pages, where we saw egregious violations of that concept, in general and in reference to EPA’s Principles of Scientific Integrity specifically.

The links below are to the unions first Statement of Purpose and to Contract News, dated Feburary 5, 1985 ten days before our Open Letter to Administrator Thomas about the asbestos rules abandonment. In these links the reader may see how the union applied the philosophy contained in them in writing the Thomas Letter.

Statement of Purpose       Early Contract News

The following link gives a more developed expression of how the union viewed professional ethics, e.g. citing the need for protection for intellectual property and against  management pressure to tailor a professional’s work to suit a predetermined policy outcome, for all EPA work to conform with – and for all employees to understand – the spirit and letter of environmental law, and for all employees to assume the duty to report plagiarism and scientific fraud.

These views were made part of union proposals for a Code of Ethics Article in the collective bargaining agreement with management. Some of them were eventually included in EPA’s Principles of Scientific Integrity (PSI) (a link to the EPA PSI is below) agreed to by the EPA National Partnership Council (NPC) in 1999 and promulgated by Administrator Browner in 2000. This union was largely responsible for this action, which was taken during its Senior Vice-president’s service as Labor Co-Chair of the NPC.

Notably absent from the PSI was the provision called for in the link below for an enforceable mechanism for adjudicating disputes arising from complaints by employees about violations of these ethical principles.

Employee View of Ethics  Management’s response to the union’s proposals was to cite elements of the then existing grievance procedure, which made no mention of professional ethics.

The basic principles that guided the union’s negotiating positions as we attempted to establish, with management’s cooperation, a realistic and effective code of professional ethics were these:Basic code of ethics Principles

(Note how closely the above Principles mimic what eventually, a decade later, became EPA’s Principles of Scientific Integrity.)

Draft No. 3 of the union’s developing ideas on a professional ethics contract article, including a case study.Professional Ethics Draft 3

Links to two items authored by the union’s first President, Bill Coniglio. The first, from a 1988 Science Letter dealing with piece work in the Pesticide Office. Coniglio in Science Mag. The second, a personal communication to Bob Carton, who was preparing a presentation to the Loehr Panel on EPA’s Science commissioned by Administrator Riley.Professionalism in Public Service – Loehr Panel.

Here is an article from the January 1, 1988 Envirnmental HEalth Letter that questions whether EPA is retreating from dealing with toxics, especially pesticides – a subject – unfortunately – never out of date.1988 Is EPA retreating on toxics

Draft #12 Ethics 3.3.88 The union and management exchanged many proposals for a Code of Ethics provision in the Collective Bargaining Agreement between 1985 and early 1988.  Draft #12 contains – as did all prior drafts – provisions for resolving disputes over scientific integrity. Such provisions were always rejected by EPA management.

This is the last proposal by the union before EPA cut off negotiations on this subject during the Toxic Carpet crisis (see that subpage under Key issues) at the Waterside Mall HQ buildings. The union had begun its independent analysis of risks and illnesses employees were experiencing from carpet emissions, and management was not happy with what our analysis showed.

Press coverage Draft #12  This is coverage by Pesticide and Toxic Chemical News of Draft #12.

After the formation of the EPA National Partnership Council during the Clinton Administration NFFE Local 2050/NTEU Chapter 280 spearheaded an effort to have the NPC push for an EPA Code of Professional Ethics. By August 1999 the version in this link was tentatively agreed to. It is quite similar to Draft #12. PSI Draft 8.25.99  This draft had its crucial sections 5 and 7 deleted by the Office of General Counsel. Section 5 contained all the provisions for enforcing the PSI policy.

Browner PSI Memorandum This is a link to the memorandum sent by Administrator Browner announcing adoption of the Principles of Scientific Integrity policy…which EPA has ever since denied is a negotiable/grieveable policy, making the PSI merely a charming window dressing that provides zero protection for employees. See material related to a Step 3 grievance involving organophosphates and an employee complaint of PSI violations.

Scientific Integrity Activities by Bill Hirzy This link is to a 2006 report on scientific integrity activities published in Inside the Fishbowl. The last part of the report shows how the union’s work in one specific area – fluoride toxicity – has had beneficial effects that include, but are not limited to, making allies for the union among the general public. Such allies were called upon for help when the union and its leaders were under serious threats, including Federal prosecution. See the Carpet Crisis Page.

The following link relates to how the labor arm of the NPC reacted to Bush Administration interference with EPA’s ability to inform the public about the dangers of contamination immediately following the terror attacks in New York on September 11, 2001.911 Unions’ Action This was a concrete example of the unions’ efforts to shine a light on improper political subversion of the Agency’s mission in contravention of – among other duties and responsibilities of the Executive Branch – EPA’s Principles of Scientific Integrity.

Scientific Integrity Blog 12.07.16 This link is a commentary about the Obama Administration’s proposed definition of “Scientific Integrity,” published in 2009. The commentary points out the glaring lack of any means of enforcement against violations by management, which is consistent with EPA management’s long standing non-negotiable, non-grieveable, non-arbitrable characterization of all policy statements about scientific integrity.

Dietrich’s Law The well documented article by William Sanjour about Richard Emory’s revelations to Congress of sweetheart deals made by Department of Justice with violators of environmental laws. See NFFE/NTEU Newsletters Page (Volume 9, No’s 8 and 8A)

In 2006 11 EPA unions signed on to a letter to Administrator Johnson expressing concern that EPA may violate the Food Quality Protection Act by not applying its own Principles of Scientific Integrity to information on organophosphate pesticides. In particular the unions pointed out the need to address the information on developmental neurotoxicity, as required by the FQPA, and they noted EPA’s apparent lack of interest or rigor in dealing with OP exposures via food stuffs. The unions expressed concern that EPA was too accommodating Unions on Organophosphates to agricultural interests and too lax about using the tools and addressing the mandates of the FQPA.

In 1991, during the period when EPA management broke off negotiations on a Code of Ethics and began serious attempts to crush the union (See Volume 7 No. 6 of Inside the Fishbowl), the union convened a meeting in the Rayburn Congressional Office Building among staff members from several key House and Senate Committees and Subcommittees and NFFE Local 2050 scientists. The meeting was to make known concrete examples of subversion of the will of Congress – as expressed in the laws it had written – by some EPA managers, and to make known the union’s resistance. This link is to a compilation of the briefing papers presented by union members James Repace, Rufus Morison, Dwight Welch and Bill Hirzy. Congress Staff Briefing 1991