Dem lawmakers request Interior chief rescind order on 'open science'

Dem lawmakers request Interior chief rescind order on 'open science'
© Greg Nash

Democratic lawmakers are asking Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeNew policy at Interior's in-house watchdog clamps down on interactions with press Overnight Energy: EPA proposes scrapping limits on coal plant waste | Appointee overseeing federal lands once advocated selling them | EPA lifts Obama-era block on controversial mine Latest appointee overseeing federal public lands once advocated to sell them MORE to rethink his secretarial order “Promoting Open Science,” fearing it will do just the opposite.

Four House Democrats, led by Rep. Raul Grijalva (Ariz.), the ranking member on the House Natural Resources Committee, sent a letter to Zinke on Thursday urging him to rescind the Sept. 28 order that they worry will lead to gagging scientists.

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We have little trust in the Department’s current leadership to faithfully adhere to principles of scientific integrity,” the lawmakers wrote. “Political decision-makers should never be given as much unilateral authority over scientific data as the Promoting Open Science order would.”

The order, issued by Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt, mandates that officials only use scientific studies or findings whose underlying data are publicly available and reproducible, with few exceptions. The approach is similar to a proposed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule that would require agency regulations to be based off transparent scientific data.

Critics of the EPA rule call it the “secret science” rule and argue that it would exclude consideration of a number of important scientific studies whose evidence can’t be made fully public due to patient privacy concerns.

The lawmakers raised that concern in their letter to Zinke.

“Both policies threaten the suppression of scientific information not aligned with this administration’s agenda under the auspices of improving science based decision making,” the Democrats wrote.

The secretarial order is not the first time Interior political officials have made strides to influence the way science is used and spoken about at the department.

In April, a draft report by the National Park Service, which is housed within Interior, was stripped of any references to climate change, including data on how sea level rise would affect public parks. Since President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump pushes back on recent polling data, says internal numbers are 'strongest we've had so far' Illinois state lawmaker apologizes for photos depicting mock assassination of Trump Scaramucci assembling team of former Cabinet members to speak out against Trump MORE took office, several Interior websites have been scrubbed of any reference to climate change or carbon.