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Don't talk to media or Congress, EPA tells workers

July 29, 2008|From the Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency is telling its pollution enforcement officials not to talk with congressional investigators, reporters and even the agency's own inspector general, according to an internal e-mail provided to the Associated Press.

The June 16 message instructs 11 managers in the EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, the branch of the agency charged with making sure environmental laws are followed, to remind their staff members to keep quiet.

"If you are contacted directly by the IG's office or GAO requesting information of any kind . . . please do not respond to questions or make any statements," reads the e-mail—28—7—gag—order.pdf sent by Robbi Farrell, the division's chief of staff. Instead, staff members should forward inquiries to a designated EPA representative, the memo says.

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility obtained the e-mail and provided it to the AP. The group is a nonprofit alliance of local, state and federal professionals. Its website carries the slogan, "Protecting Employees Who Protect Our Environment."

The EPA, in an official statement, said Monday that the e-mail was aimed at making agency responses to the media, EPA's inspector general and Congress' General Accountability Office more efficient, consistent and coordinated. The EPA said officials could still talk to investigators as long as they checked in with the appropriate representatives.

"There is nothing . . . that restricts conversation between enforcement staff, the press, GAO and the IG, and the procedure is consistent with existing agency policies," the statement said. "No one has to get permission or approval to speak with the IG or GAO."

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