House Science Chair Backs Off NOAA Scientists

CREDIT: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

House Science, Space, and Technology Chairman Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) is battling NOAA over a June report.

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), chair of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, is trying a new approach in his attempt to wrest information out of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), a federal science agency that in June published a paper Smith didn’t like.

Smith has subpoenaed NOAA for emails and correspondence relating to a study that disputes the existence of a pause in global warming — a subset of data that climate deniers have latched on to.

In a letter Tuesday, Smith backed off his request, somewhat. While he had previously demanded all internal NOAA correspondence regarding the study, he is now asking for “all documents and communications by NOAA officials, with the exception of scientists acting in their official capacity” (emphasis added).

The letter to Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, who oversees NOAA, is just the latest in a months-long back and forth between the chair and NOAA officials. In it, Smith says the last correspondence from the agency “continues NOAA’s pattern of failing to act in good faith with the Committee’s oversight efforts.”

To wit: “NOAA has steadfastly refused to to discuss the issue of communications relating to any NOAA official with the Committee,” Smith writes.

NOAA has, indeed, failed to produce correspondence on this issue, and Smith’s desire to read back-and-forths between actual scientists has ruffled feathers in the scientific community. Last week, several major scientific societies sent a letter to the representative, saying his inquiry would have a chilling effect on scientific research.

“Scientists should not be subjected to fraud investigations or harassment simply for providing scientific results that some may see as politically controversial,” the groups wrote.

A committee colleague has called the investigation a “witch hunt.”