The Department of the Interior recently proclaimed in a blog that the agency is “Leading the Way in Scientific Integrity.”
“The Department of the Interior (DOI) has a unique role as one of the United States Government’s leading creators and consumers of scientific data and research. Ensuring the integrity of scientific research and data relied upon by the Department is critical. Policymakers rely on this science to inform policy decisions. The public counts on DOI for trustworthy scientific data, research, and analysis related to everything from earthquakes and endangered species to the environmental impacts of human activities.”
Despite the spin from the Deputy Secretary of the Interior David Hayes, the DOI’s record shows that it values politics more than scientific integrity. In our report, “Keeping Entrepreneurship at Bay”, we explain how multiple offices within DOI “significantly lack oversight, accountability, and transparency, and as a result have gone unchecked in their manipulation of scientific data.”
The use of bad science informed the decision of former Secretary Salazar to shut down Drakes Bay Oyster Company, a small, family-run, environmentally sustainable farm located inside the Point Reyes National Seashore.
How has the DOI distorted science to fit their political agenda and try to shut down a sustainable small business? Let us count the ways:
- In the draft environmental impact statement (DEIS), the National Parks Service (NPS) used data from a 1995 study on the sound impact of a 70 horsepower (HP) jet ski at the distance of two feet to make conclusions on the noise level of 20 and 40 HP oyster skiffs at fifty feet.
- In the same DEIS, NPS used data from a 400 HP cement mixer truck that can be heard for 2.4 miles to misrepresent a ¼ HP oyster tumbler than can be heard for only 150 feet.
- The DOI Office of Inspector General found no misconduct and declared that the data was “reasonable and justified based on mechanical similarities.”
- DOI Field Solicitor Gavin Frost wrote a report that found NPS scientists violated the NPS Code of Scientific and Scholarly Conduct by “blurring the line between exploration and advocacy through research.”
- Specifically the report found that NPS employees “mishandled” data and “refus[ed] . . . to modify their intuitive, but statistically and scientifically unproven, belief that DBOC mariculture activities” disturbed harbor seals in Drakes Estero.
- The Frost Report concluded that NPS scientists showed “bias,” “advocacy,” a “troubling mind-set,” and a “willingness to allow subjective beliefs … to guide scientific conclusions.”
- Frost excused the employees by labeling these actions as “administrative misconduct” instead of scientific misconduct.
Change: From “No Evidence” to “Directly Connected”
- Even after independent analysis by Dr. Brent Stewart, an independent harbor seal behavior specialist at Hubbs SeaWorld Research Institute contracted by NPS, concluded there was “no evidence of disturbance” of harbor seals by the oyster skiffs in Drakes Bay, the U.S. Geological Survey issued a public report stating that the oyster skiffs could be directly connected, or at least associated with a flushing level of disturbance” in some seals, and the NPS in their Final EIS misrepresented Dr. Stewart’s report to conclude cause-and-effect.
Politics over Integrity
Despite the attempted victory lap by DOI on its website, the evidence shows that the only thing they are leading in is the Orwellian doublespeak they use to cover up their scientific misconduct.
As of May 24, 2013, Cause of Action no longer represents Drakes Bay Oyster Company, the Lunny family, or Dr. Corey Goodman and will be withdrawing as counsel from the litigation.