July 25, 2017

Senate Dems Call for Investigation into Possible Targeting of Climate Change Whistleblowers

By the C|C Whistleblower Lawyer Team

As reported today in the Washington Post, eight Democrats on the Senate Energy and National Resources Committee have called for an investigation into possible whistleblower retaliation in the Interior Department’s recent reassignment of dozens of senior career officials. In a letter yesterday to Interior Department Deputy Inspector General Mary Kendall, the concerned senators wrote:

Any suggestion that the Department is reassigning [Senior Executive Service] employees to force them to resign, silence their voices, or to punish them for the conscientious performance of their public duties is extremely troubling and calls for the closest examination.

According to the Post, of particular concern to the senators is that one of the reassigned officials is Joel Clement, who is the Department’s top climate official, and who has alleged he was punished for his climate change work. Until two weeks ago, he had been the Secretary of the Interior Department’s Office of Policy Analysis. Then he was abruptly reassigned to become senior adviser at the department’s Office of Natural Resources Revenue, which according to the Post collects royalty payments from oil, gas and mining firms.

In an OpEd piece he wrote for the Post last week, Clement complained he was a scientist being punished for blowing the whistle on the Trump Administration.

I am a scientist, a policy expert, a civil servant and a worried citizen. Reluctantly, as of today, I am also a whistleblower on an administration that chooses silence over science. . . . I believe I was retaliated against for speaking out publicly about the dangers that climate change poses to Alaska Native communities. . . . It is clear to me that the administration was so uncomfortable with this work, and my disclosures, that I was reassigned with the intent to coerce me into leaving the federal government.

For its part, the Interior Department is denying any foul play, claiming according to the Post that it “makes no apologies for [the] decision to place a slew of experienced career officials in different posts.” However, the Inspector General’s Office of the agency is required to conduct its own independent assessment and, according to the Post, has already indicated it “will promptly access resources and methods to meet the request” for an investigation. What they will find and report is anyone’s guess given the never-ending storm surrounding politics as usual in Washington these days. Stay tuned . . . .

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