E&E News: 2 Senate Republicans accuse Salazar of ignoring serial scientific misconduct
February 13, 2012
Posted by Matt Dempsey firstname.lastname@example.org
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2 Senate Republicans accuse Salazar of ignoring 'serial scientific misconduct'
Emily Yehle, E&E reporter
Published: Monday, February 13, 2012
The top Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is accusing Interior Secretary Ken Salazar of ignoring accusations of "serial scientific misconduct" at the National Park Service.
Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) joined Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) in writing a letter to Salazar today that refers to three letters sent to Salazar while Congress vetted Jonathan Jarvis for NPS director in 2009. Sent by Corey Goodman -- a National Academy of Sciences member -- the letters outlined his contention that Jarvis covered up the manipulation of research on whether a California oyster farm disturbs nearby harbor seals.
"It is particularly troubling that Jarvis was accused of being involved in and directing a cover-up of the fabrication, falsification and/or misrepresentation of scientific misconduct," they wrote. "It is further frustrating that you were informed of these significant matters and it appears that nothing was done."
The letter was sent at about 10 this morning, and an Interior spokesman said officials were reviewing it.
The letter is just the latest in a years-long debate over whether NPS scientists have exaggerated the affects of Drakes Bay Oyster Co. on the surrounding national wilderness area. The farm's 40-year lease ends this year, and NPS is considering whether to allow it to stay at Point Reyes National Seashore.
The lead-up to that decision has spawned lots of research on whether the farm is harmful to local plants and animals -- especially the harbor seals that breed nearby. NPS scientists and local environmental groups say it is, but independent panels have also repeatedly criticized NPS research. Most recently, Congress directed the National Academy of Sciences to assess whether the NPS' environmental analysis of the farm had a "solid scientific foundation" (Greenwire, Jan. 11).
But Inhofe and Vitter focus on Salazar's response to Goodman's accusations. In three letters sent in April and May 2009, Goodman writes that Jarvis purposely covered up flawed research when he was regional director for the Pacific West Region, before President Obama nominated him to become NPS director.
"Nearly two years later, it is now clear that Jon Jarvis continued to manipulate the presentation and publication of false science in order to cover-up the original scientific misconduct and to confuse the [National Academy of Sciences], the public, and its elected officials," Goodman wrote. "Over these two years, Jarvis directed and participated in a series of misrepresentations intended to obfuscate and mislead the NPS science. Jarvis' misconduct should not be rewarded by nomination as Director of NPS."
According to Inhofe and Vitter, Salazar asked Jarvis to respond to Goodman's accusations, including one letter that outlined 21 instances of alleged misconduct. The charges and investigation, they say, should have been disclosed to the White House, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and Congress during Jarvis' nomination process.
Both senators have accused the Obama administration repeatedly of putting science in the back seat to political influence and personal agendas. In October, they joined Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) in sending a letter to the White House that cites studies and decisions issued by the Department of the Interior, U.S. EPA and the Department of Energy that they say supports their claims (Greenwire, Oct. 19, 2011). I
nhoffe and Vitter join Issa and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) in criticism of NPS over its research of the oyster farm. In a letter to the Marin Independent Journal this month, Feinstein wrote that the "crux of the problem is that the Park Service manipulated science while building a case that the business should be shuttered."
But while Feinstein has focused on the individual case of the oyster farm, Inhofe and Vitter contend that it is emblematic of larger problems.
"We've seen facts manipulated and science ignored across the administration while they've developed policies with huge negative effects on the economy," Vitter said in a statement today. "We want the public to be aware of the administration's scientific gimmickry, because important policy decisions by the EPA and Interior shouldn't be based on guesswork or manipulated facts -- and we want the agencies to be transparent and explain their methods."