For Immediate Release
Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337
Interior Science Has Integrity Issues, IG Says
No Safeguards against Political Manipulation of Science despite Repeated Scandals
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of Interior still lacks any policy to ensure the
integrity of its scientific data, according to a new Inspector General
report. As a result, agency scientific findings remain susceptible to
alteration or suppression in support of pre-determined political
positions, according to Public Employees for Environmental
The report by the Interior Office of
Inspector General (IG), dated April 2010, was quietly posted without
announcement on the IG website late last week. In recent days, Interior
has been reeling from reports that it ignored both internal and
external scientific warnings about the risk of oil spills and the lack
of response capacity before Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced a
major expansion of offshore drilling, just days before the disastrous BP
explosion and spill.
"The problem is not the scientists but their
managers who are actually rewarded for filtering information to serve
the announced agency agenda," stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch,
noting that the slim 12-page IG report only skims over root causes.
"Political skewing of science became a major cause for complaint under
Bush but it remains just as bad under Obama because nothing has been
done to stop it."
By way of example of ongoing scientific
dysfunction within Interior, PEER points to -
efforts inside the Minerals Management Service to stifle scientists who
raise environmental concerns about offshore drilling, as documented in
an April 2010 Government Accountability Office report;
Species Act positions taken by the U.S. that fly in the face of the
overwhelming weight of agency science, on issues ranging from the
Florida panther to the sage grouse. As under Bush, conservation groups
are able to prove in court that Obama agency stances are "arbitrary and
capricious" for ignoring the best available science; and
ongoing hostility toward whistleblowers and continued reliance on "gag
orders" and other restrictions on specialists candidly discussing
problems or sharing data.
"In March 2009, President Obama
promised new policies that would both protect agency science from
political tampering and scientists from retaliation for doing their jobs
but those policies never were promulgated," Ruch added. "Compromised
scientific integrity is not just a problem inside Interior; it is a
government-wide phenomenon whenever technical data carries heavy policy
Contrary to the IG report, Interior claimed that
it did adopt a scientific code of conduct back in 2002, but the agency
did so via a press release and never put it into its official manual.
That code applied only to the scientists and not to managers and
political appointees who remain free to alter technical documents for
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is a national alliance of local state and federal resource professionals. PEER's environmental work is solely directed by the needs of its members. As a consequence, we have the distinct honor of serving resource professionals who daily cast profiles in courage in cubicles across the country.