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Wyden, Merkley seek probe of Interior Dept. political interference


Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., joined their colleagues Tuesday in calling on the Department of the Interior’s inspector general to investigate political interference in scientific research or communications at the agency.

“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 Inspector General Mary Kendall.

“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,” the lawmakers said.

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 – are concerned about the influence of political appointees on their work.

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.

The letter followed up on reporting from Reveal, from the Center for Investigative Reporting, which 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 Mazie Hirono’s questioning about censorship of science at DOI during a March hearing of the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

The full letter can be found here.

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