Published on Sunday, April 14, 2002 in the New York Times
White House Ends Environmental Fellowship
WASHINGTON, April 13 The Bush administration is eliminating a respected fellowship program for graduate research in the environmental sciences, administration officials said this week.
The fellowship provides $10 million a year to students pursuing graduate degrees in environmental science, policy and engineering, as part of an Environmental Protection Agency program called Science to Achieve Results, or STAR. .
Since 1995, the program has financed nearly 800 students, awarding $60 million for graduate-level environmental research. It now supports 311 fellows, with each receiving $30,000 to $34,000 for one to three years, said Chris Saint, assistant director at the agency's National Center for Environmental Research, which administers the program.
"This is the only federal program that is specifically designed to support the top students going into environmental science" and related fields, said David Blockstein, a senior scientist with the National Council for Science and the Environment, an environmental science advocacy group in Washington.
Under President Bush's 2003 budget proposal, most of the program's $100 million budget remains intact, but the fellowships would end, apparently falling victim to an effort by the administration to consolidate financing for environmental education under the National Science Foundation.
"There are no specific programs being transferred from the E.P.A. to the N.S.F," said Bill Noxon, a spokesman for the science agency.
A staff member for the House Committee on Science, which oversees parts of each agency, said the fellowship had been lost in the shuffle. "It doesn't show up in their budget, and no one knows anything about it," the staff member said. "It's not really explicit why this program is being cut."
Plans to end the fellowship were made after more than 1,350 applications had been submitted for the 2003 program, Mr. Saint said. In February, applicants were notified that the program had been canceled.
A number of interest groups and lawmakers have called for reinstatement of the fellowship, including the Ecological Society of America and the American Chemical Society, as well as Representative Lynn Rivers, Democrat of Michigan, and Representative Sherwood Boehlert, a New York Republican who is chairman of the House Science Committee.
Supporters of the fellowship say the Bush administration has sent mixed messages.
Last year, Christie Whitman, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, defended the fellowship in House appropriation hearings, saying it "continues to successfully engage the best environmental scientists and engineers from academia through a variety of competitive, peer reviewed grants."
President Bush has consistently emphasized the importance of scientific research in environmental decision making.
Dr. Daniel I. Rubenstein, chairman of the ecology and evolutionary biology department at Princeton, said, "If the goal is to formulate policy that is based on science so that it is made effective, then this program is a way to ensure that the next generation of scientists are in the pipeline."
For most students pursuing graduate degrees in environmental science, the end of financing for the program would be a roadblock but not insurmountable.
"I'm pretty industrious," said Richard Brody, 38, a senior at the University of California at Berkeley who had applied for a fellowship to study water resource management next year.
"If you keep your ear to the ground, there is stuff out there," he said. "But this was the big one."
Copyright 2002 The New York Times Company