Ranking Member Grijalva: Yesterday’s IG Finding Overlooks Attempted Behind-the-Scenes Politicization of NPS Climate Report

Washington, D.C. – In response to a request from Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Reps. Donald McEachin (D-Va.), Niki Tsongas (D-Mass.), Don Beyer (D-Va.) and Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), the Department of the Interior (DOI) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) yesterday afternoon released its conclusions on how a recent National Park Service (NPS) report on human contributions to climate change was produced. The lawmakers requested the investigation in early April to determine whether DOI political appointees had improperly influenced the report’s language to remove references to manmade climate impacts.

In a brief public note, the OIG concluded that no wrongdoing occurred because the NPS report – after a substantial media backlash against suggestions of political manipulation – was eventually published in its original form.

“A widely published climate researcher with a sterling reputation had to put her career on the line to get the honest version of this report out the door,” Grijalva said today. “The inspector general essentially said that if you get caught robbing a bank and the money is returned, no crime was committed. After eighteen months of lies and manipulation, we know we need to hold this administration to a higher standard. If political appointees feel free to ignore scientific integrity polices, then Congress may need to step in and give them some sharper teeth.”

Maria Caffrey, the lead author and scientist on the NPS study, led the fight against Trump officials’ attempted censorship of the report. In an interview with Reveal News, the outlet that originally broke the story, she conceded that although she was “extremely happy” the report was released as originally authored, speaking out “probably destroyed” her career with NPS. Caffrey is a researcher at the University of Colorado.

To protect scientists like Caffrey and their work, the Obama administration directed all federal agencies to implement scientific integrity policies in 2009. Scientific integrity policies promote independent science by helping to prevent undue political interference in scientific and scholarly activities.

When such interference occurs, the policies give scientists guidance in filing complaints and seeking protection against retaliation. The production of the Caffrey-led report shows that DOI’s scientific integrity policy may not be as strong as it needs to be in protecting the scientific process.

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