Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility November 3, 2005 EPA ELIMINATES OFFICE OF CHILDREN'S HEALTH PROTECTION Washington, DC -- In its first restructuring under Administrator Stephen Johnson, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is creating a new "national security and intelligence" operation, according to an agency email released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). At the same time, EPA would eliminate the Office of Children's Health Protection and bury its function inside an environmental education bureau. "It is not clear why the Environmental Protection Agency needs its own clandestine service," stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. "This appears to be yet another move to take the 'E' out of EPA." The October 28th restructuring announcement states with respect to the new intelligence function - "Creating an Intelligence Operations function within the Office of Homeland Security to advise the Administrator and other senior EPA officials on matters related to national security and intelligence; to serve as the principal Agency liaison to the U.S. intelligence community; and to coordinate with EPA programs and Regions on matters related to classified and other sensitive information." "The term 'sensitive information' denotes that EPA is creating a new category of secret information apart from the current security classification system; a development that further erodes the public's right to know what is happening in our environment," Ruch added. The reorganization also abolishes the Office of Children's Health Protection and transfers its work to an expanded environmental education unit. Established in 1997, the Office of Children's Health Protection is supposed to ensure that the special vulnerability of children is safeguarded in environmental standard-setting, enforcement and prevention efforts. Johnson's own role in childhood health issues was brought into stark relief during his confirmation hearings over his advocacy of using children in pesticide dosing experiments. Although Johnson cancelled one controversial study (with the anomalous acronym of CHEERS) in which parents were to be paid to spray pesticides in the room primarily occupied by their infant children, he did so in the face of threats by Democratic senators to block his confirmation. Since then, Johnson has heatedly defended CHEERS and is pushing a plan to allow children to be used in other chemical dosing experiments. "Stephen Johnson is making it clear that he does not want to hear another peep out of child health advocates within his agency," Ruch added, noting that putting child health under environmental education represents a serious de-emphasis. "This move is only slightly better than putting children's health in the janitor's closet, given the importance EPA assigns to environmental education."