July 25, 2005 – A plan by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to spend millions of dollars improving its public image has come under fire from a watchdog organization. The public relations campaign involves promoting the work of EPA scientists through branding, contracting PR firms to help write articles for scholarly journals and utilizing focus groups.
Last week, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), a nonprofit association of state and federal scientists and resource professionals, released a document revealing that the Office of Research and Development (ORD) at the EPA is considering potential contractors for a possible $6 million "cost-plus" public relations deal.
The EPA document asks potential applicants to provide the agency with information about their firmâ€™s ability to develop handbooks, power point presentations, speeches and logos, among other skills. Additionally, it states that the agency is seeking a company that can "provide research, writing and editing of ORD articles for publications in scholarly journals and magazines."
PEER accused the Environmental Protections Agency of diverting vital funds away from scientific research in order to repair and enhance its public image.
In response to PEERâ€™s criticism, EPA spokesperson Eryn Witcher told the New York Times that the purpose of the PR plan is to highlight the work being done by EPA scientists. "It's not spending money on communications at the expense of research but rather in support of it," she said. "This allows the results of EPA research to be shared with the general public."
PEER has requested the EPA's Inspector General investigate the legality of the plan.