Agency turns over subpoenaed climate documents

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Federal officials are turning over scores of emails and documents related to climate science research in response to a subpoena from a House committee. 

A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) official said Thursday that the agency provided about 100 documents to the House Science Committee this week. 

The documents relate to an investigation kicked off by the committee's chairman, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), into NOAA’s climate science research, specifically a study that concluded there has not been a 15-year “pause” in global warming.

Skeptics of climate change, including Smith, have used the idea of a pause to show that higher greenhouse gas emissions have not contributed to global warming. They accuse NOAA of pushing a political study to make a point about climate change, something the agency says isn’t true.

“The documents NOAA delivered to the committee contain emails among NOAA communications and front office staff discussing the routine mechanics of a communications plan for the paper,” NOAA spokeswoman Ciaran Clayton said.  

“The documents include discussions that show NOAA front office staff was aware that the study was particularly noteworthy and would likely be the focus of scrutiny and debate. At the same time, there is nothing in these materials that would support the notion that substance or timing of the paper was politically motivated.”

In October, Smith subpoenaed internal NOAA communications between scientists, as well as some agency data, related to the research.

He amended his request in December, specifying he first wanted to see communications and documents from NOAA’s political, policy and non-scientific staff rather than its scientists.

“I am encouraged by NOAA’s acknowledgment of its obligation to produce documents and communications in response to the committee’s lawfully-issued subpoena,” Smith said in a Wednesday statement.

“I am also glad to see that NOAA has committed to produce additional items as they are identified. We will carefully review these documents and expect additional productions from NOAA.”

Democrats have slammed Smith for the investigation. In a November letter to the chairman, ranking member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) called the inquiry “illegitimate” and “inappropriate.”