Ranking Member Grijalva, Leading Committee Democrats Urge Repeal of DOI “Secret Science” Order, Recommitment to Scientific Integrity

Washington, D.C. – Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and leading Democratic Committee members sent a letter today to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke urging him to rescind a recent Secretarial Order that threatens to further politicize how science is used across the Department of the Interior (DOI). The “Promoting Open Science” Order, issued quietly by Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt on Sept. 28, is just the latest in a long line of Trump administration attacks on scientific integrity and transparent policymaking, the lawmakers write. 

The full letter – also signed by Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), ranking member of the Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans; Rep. Donald McEachin (D-Va.), ranking member of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations; and Rep. Niki Tsongas (D-Mass.) – is available at http://bit.ly/2pNWKep.

As grounds for their concern, the lawmakers cite multiple widely reported examples of political interference in DOI policymaking, including:

  • Secretary Zinke’s demand to review U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) mineral data before its publication, to which Reps. Grijalva and McEachin objected strenuously when it became known.
  • Subjecting websites, press interactions, and public reports to political censorship.
  • The scrubbing of DOI websites of any mention of climate change science.
  • Requiring scientists to submit to heightened scrutiny prior to speaking with reporters.
  • The statement of a DOI researcher that “Climate scientists at USGS are being told to hide their work.”
  • The deletion from a press release on a scientific publication authored by USGS scientists of a sentence mentioning climate change and sea level rise, which potentially violated DOI’s own Scientific Integrity Policy.

“We have little trust in the Department’s current leadership to faithfully adhere to principles of scientific integrity,” the lawmakers write. “Political decision-makers should never be given as much unilateral authority over scientific data as the Promoting Open Science order would.”

As the Center for Western Priorities has pointed out, Secretary Zinke and other DOI political appointees have already interfered with DOI experts in a number of ways, including blocking Interior Department archaeologists from attending scientific conferences, attempting to censor the human-impact on climate change from a National Park Service Report, and retaliating against a senior scientist publicly working on climate change.

The new DOI policy is substantially similar to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) controversial “Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science” regulation issued earlier this year. Together, the orders suggest a widespread Trump administration attack on legitimate scientific research at federal agencies.

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