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Ellen Paul

Dept of Interior scientists testify: DOI punished them for their work

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https://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/454805-interior-whistleblowers-say-agency-has-sidelined-scientists-under

EXCERPTS:

Former Interior Department employees who say they experienced retaliation at the agency for their work on scientific endeavors appeared before lawmakers on 25 July 2019.

Among those testifying were Joel Clement, a whistleblower who said he was removed from his work on climate change and reassigned to an accounting role. 

Also testifying was Maria Caffrey, who said she had to fight with the Interior Department to keep references to the human contributions to climate change in a report on how sea level rise would impact national parks.

Clement said under the Trump administration, the Interior Department “has sidelined scientists and experts, flattened the morale of the career staff, and by all accounts, is bent on hollowing out the Agency.”

Clement, now a senior fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University, said he was removed from his work with 30 Alaska Native communities that were “one big storm away from being wiped right off the map” and needed to be immediately relocated. 

Caffrey, whose research was funded by the Interior Department, said she found herself repeatedly demoted at the agency after pushing to keep references to the human impacts of climate change in her report. 

“It removes the meaning from my study. I prepared four different climate scenarios for those three different time periods, so those scenarios hang on how much greenhouse gases we produce in the future,” she said, including how much humans contribute to the atmosphere. 

“I had become at outcast for standing up,” she added, noting the department told her they didn’t want her help even on a volunteer basis. She is now looking for work in the Denver area. 

The hearing was to discuss the Scientific Integrity Act, a bill sponsored by Rep. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.) that would add protections for government scientists, including allowing them to publish research outside of government channels and establish a Scientific Integrity Officer. 

Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, said that "it’s no secret that the Trump administration is not a fan of science.”

“There are the stories that career scientists at Interior are too afraid to share. And with good reason. They have seen their colleagues, like our witnesses, get threatened, harassed, reassigned, and retaliated against,” he added.

Scientists have been vocal about what they view as mistreatment under the Trump administration.

They have cited examples, ranging from limiting government-funded scientists from sitting on an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) board to a proposal to limit what kind of studies can be considered by the EPA, to recent plans to relocate U.S. Department of Agriculture researchers and Bureau of Land Management policymakers. 

“To purge the language of climate change from the agency entirely is a direct assault on the science we know is very prominent and very clear on the risk to the mission of the agency that we act now to protect real people in harm’s way,” Clement said.   

Interior was invited to attend the hearing but did not send a representative.

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