Gordon Seeks Answers on NOAA’s Cover-Up of Hurricane Report
U.S. House Committee on Science Ranking Member Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN) today asked the NOAA Administrator for all documentation relating to the suppression of a NOAA Hurricane FAQ report.
A Nature report last week ("Is U.S. hurricane report being quashed?" Jim Giles, 9.26.06), noted that scientists at NOAA had composed a consensus statement on factors contributing to the more intense and more frequent hurricanes that have occurred in recent years. Among the factors mentioned in that report is the impact of global warming. Nature reported that the chair of the NOAA panel charged with composing that report received directions from an unnamed Commerce Department official that the report was not to be released.
Ranking Member Gordon has learned that the report was already approved by all NOAA offices at the time the Commerce Department intervened. Science Committee staff also learned that NOAA Administrator Admiral Conrad Lautenbacher had approved the report and it was to be released at the beginning of the hurricane season, which began June 1, 2006. Instead, the report was held at the Department of Commerce until last week. In the wake of the Nature article and a draft of the report being posted online at Science Climate Watch, NOAA rushed out the FAQ, posting it on their web site on September 28, 2006.
In a letter (click to access full text) to the NOAA Administrator today, Ranking Member Gordon asked for copies of all documentation regarding the e-mail traffic blocking the report. Mr. Gordon also asked for all documentation related to the approval and review process of the Hurricane FAQ, as well as all documentation regarding efforts the Admiral or his personal staff pursued to spur the Department to clear the FAQ for public release.
"I think that the American people are very concerned with reports of science at one agency after another being subjected to political pressure to suppress the public’s access to sound science in deference to a politically preferred message," said Congressman Gordon in his letter. "Fundamentally, I am baffled at the proliferation of non-scientists in public affairs offices - many of whom are political appointees with no scientific qualifications, but perfect partisan credentials - ontinuing to insert themselves into shaping what the public can hear from our Federal scientists. I hope you will work with me to rectify this situation."
In addition to his letter to Admiral Lautenbacher, Ranking Member Gordon also today released the text of an e-mail from the Admiral’s office to other NOAA offices indicating that the Hurricane FAQ report had been approved, a copy of the FAQ as it stood subsequent to the Admiral’s approval, a summary of the approval of this version of the report by the NOAA Executive Council, and the text of an e-mail the Admiral sent to all staff on October 3, 2006 that attempted to explain this situation.