Maui News

Hirono Calls for Investigation of the Department of the Interior

October 5, 2018, 2:28 PM HST
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US Sen. Mazie Hirono.

Senator 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. In response to that news, a number of us wrote a letter requesting that you open an investigation into the matter,” the Senators wrote. “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. We fully support Sen. Hirono’s important request,” said Dr. Andrew Rosenberg, Director, Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists

Senators 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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The letter followed up on 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 Senator 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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