Good Government at EPA

EPA Deputy Administrator Marcus Peacock, the second highest-level political appointee at the agency, deserves congratulations for opening up his official EPA blog to public comment after his initial foray into the blogosphere lacked that public feedback capacity.

Shortly after I read his inaugural blog posting from late July, I emailed him inquiring why his blog did not provide the option for readers to post public comments and questions, consistent with accepted blogging protocol. Now I will confess I was motivated in part by suspicions that Bush administration EPA officials might be more interested in one-sided puffery than open forums and dialogue that would certainly surface criticisms and challenges to EPA policies.

I received a prompt and courteous email reply from Mr. Peacock offering various explanations about security and a lack of resources to reply. Plausible explanations but ultimately unsatisfying. I learned later that he had published my question and posted a public reply similar to what he had explained to me privately.

Strolling over to his blog today, I was pleased to see this latest posting, announcing that in November, his EPA blog will accept public comments on his blog entries for all to read. (Before getting to this welcome news, the reader first must accompany Mr. Peacock on a trip to a urinal in a discomfiting anecdote, but hey, let's give the man credit for the courage to bare his, ahem, soul before the world on a government website. And when's the last time a government official -- besides Senator Larry Craig -- invited you into a urinal with him?)

So kudos to Mr. Peacock for listening to public suggestions; for overcoming bureaucratic hurdles to make government more transparent and responsive to citizens; and for opening up himself, EPA, and the administration to potential criticism. Let's keep it constructive out there. One can even hope that EPA staff will feel empowered to post probative comments and questions to Mr. Peacock.

Oh I'll still be a critic of the administration's environmental policies. I'll be forced to file more lawsuits -- cheerfully, mind you -- in the next 14 months challenging harmful EPA air pollution rules than in any comparable period in the past 7 years, as the administration has announced desperate plans to rush out a graveyard's worth of dirty air rules before they leave office.

But in the meantime, when we see honorable gestures like Mr. Peacock's, let's give good government due credit.