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15 Senators Call for Investigation of Political Interference in Science

October 2, 2018, 7:42 AM HST
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Sen. Mazie K. Hirono led 14 Senators in urging the Department of the Interior (DOI) Inspector General Mary Kendall to investigate any political interference in scientific research or communications at the department.

“In April of this year, news surfaced alleging political interference with a report by the National Park Service on sea level rise,” the Senators wrote. “In response to that news, a number of us wrote a letter requesting that you open an investigation into the matter. While the final NPS sea level rise report maintained the science originally included, we have no reason to believe that the attacks on science and pressure by political appointees to alter science to fit the administration’s narrative will cease.”

“Political interference with scientific work at the department means the public is misinformed, policies are misguided and risks to the nation’s resources are not fully recognized,” said Dr. Andrew Rosenberg, director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “We fully support Sen. Hirono’s important request.”

Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) also signed the letter.

In the letter, the Senators highlighted results of a recent study published by Union of Concerned Scientists that found a significant percentage of scientists working across federal agencies—including the NPS, Fish and Wildlife Service, and U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)—are concerned about the influence of political appointees on their work.

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They also note previous activities by DOI leadership that illustrate their animosity towards science, including the implementation of an unprecedented grant review by a political appointee late last year as well as requests for steep budget cuts to science-based programs, such as the Climate Adaptation Science Centers at USGS.

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In April, Sen. Hirono led four of her colleagues in requesting that the DOI Inspector General investigate potential censorship of a report about the impact of sea level rise and storm surge at America’s National Parks.

The letter followed up on reporting from Reveal, from the Center for Investigative Reporting, suggested that DOI employees have been internally editing out any mentions of anthropogenic climate change from a past-due National Park Service scientific report. The article contradicted testimony given by Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke in response to Sen. Hirono’s questioning about censorship of science at DOI during a March hearing of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

Click here to download a copy of the letter.

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