Interior official says he was reassigned because of climate work

Interior official says he was reassigned because of climate work
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A senior Interior Department official has filed a whistleblower complaint against Trump administration political appointees, claiming he was reassigned within Interior because of his work on climate change.

Joel Clement, the former director of Interior’s Office of Policy Analysis, is asking the U.S. Office of Special Counsel to investigate the circumstances surrounding his June reassignment to the Office of Natural Resources Revenue.

In his current job, Clement is charged with collecting royalty revenue for the federal government. His former position allowed him to research the effects of climate change on Alaskan villages, work he says led top officials to reassign him within the department.

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“I believe I was retaliated against for speaking out publicly about the dangers that climate change poses to Alaska Native communities,” Clement wrote in a Washington Post op-ed on Wednesday.

In a Special Counsel complaint filed Wednesday, Clement noted that he had discussed his climate research with the White House, at the United Nations and at conferences in Alaska and in Sweden between Trump's victory in November's presidential election and Clement's reassignment last month.

The effort, he contends, put him at odds with Trump administration officials, who reassigned him in an effort to get him to quit the department.

Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeMajority of National Park Service advisory board resigns amid protest Overnight Energy: Regulators say Perry plan didn’t pass legal muster | Chamber to push for 25-cent gas tax hike | Energy expert sees US becoming 'undisputed leader' in oil, gas Appeals court to hear suit against Interior challenging effects of coal mine leasing MORE told a Senate committee in June that the department would “rely on a combination of attrition, reassignments and separation incentives” to reduce the agency’s staffing.

“It is clear to me that the administration was so uncomfortable with this work, and my disclosures, that I was reassigned with the intent to coerce me into leaving the federal government,” Clement wrote in his op-ed.

Clement was one of three dozen career officials reassigned to new positions by Interior Department leadership in mid-June.

Political appointees like Zinke are legally allowed to reassign members of the Senior Executive Service (SES), a position Clement held.

An Interior Department spokeswoman said the decision to move Clement and others came after an executive order from President Trump in which departments were told to reorganize their internal workforces.

“The president signed an executive order to reorganize the federal government for the future and the secretary has been absolutely out front on that issue,” spokeswoman Heather Swift said in a statement.

“Personnel moves amongst the Senior Executive Service are being conducted to better serve the taxpayer and the Department's operations through matching Senior Executive skill sets with mission and operational requirements.”

Clement has asked the Office of Special Counsel to investigate his reassignment and to order Interior return him to his old position.