Feds may be muzzling scientist over Arctic research
Posted on July 30, 2011 by Bob Berwyn
Battle over Alaska offshore oil drilling heats up
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — Last summer’s Deepwater Horizon oil-drilling disaster in the Gulf of Mexico clearly showed the conflict between science, energy policy and politics, and the looming battle over drilling in Arctic waters will be no different, as a watchdog group claims that federal scientists are being muzzled and harassed over their efforts to disclose potential impacts of energy development in the fragile Arctic marine environment.
Dr. Charles Monnet, a senior federal scientist working the Arctic has been placed on administrative leave and is being investigated by the Interior Department’s Inspector General. Such inspections are not uncommon, but what’s unusual in this case is that the researcher says he has no idea what the investigators are looking for.
But a Washington, D.C.-based watchdog and whistle-blower protection group, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, says the investigation is designed to interfere with scientific research that points out the dangers of Arctic drilling. In a scientific misconduct complaint filed last week, the group charged that Monnet is “being hounded in a political attempt to impugn his observations on polar bears’ vulnerability to retreating sea ice.”