Interior dept scientist resigns over fears of lacking scientific integrity

Interior dept scientist resigns over fears of lacking scientific integrity
© Greg Nash

A head scientist at the Interior Department's U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) resigned in December following concerns about the department's interference in the scientific process.

In a letter obtained and released by Mother Jones on Wednesday, head of USGS's energy and minerals program Murray Hitzman resigned from his role at the end of last year in "protest" after the department provided final results of a study he had been working on to Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Senior Interior official contacted former employer, violating ethics pledge: watchdog | Ag secretary orders environmental rollbacks for Forest Service | Senate advances public lands bill in late-night vote Senior Interior official contacted former employer, violating ethics pledge: watchdog Overnight Energy: Trump officials may pursue offshore drilling after election, report says | Energy regulators to delay projects pending appeals | EPA union calls for 'moratorium' on reopening plans MORE days before it was to be made publicly available, an action he called in the letter a "contradiction of my interpretation of USGS fundamental scientific policy."

The study in question was a resource assessment of the nation's petroleum reserve in Alaska. USGS led the onshore efforts of the joint interagency assessment.

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According to an Interior press release, USGS estimated a mean of 8.7 billion barrels of oil and 25 trillion cubic feet of gas in Alaska soil. The release called it "a significant increase​ from the 2010 resource assessment, which estimated a mean of 1.5 billion barrels of oil."

The report was released on Dec. 22. Hitzman gave his resignation six days prior on Dec 17.