Senators Reid and Lautenberg Tell GAO To Look Into Fuzzy Science

    June 29, 2005

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NEV) and Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), the ranking Democrat on the Global Climate Change subcommittee, sent a letter today to the General Accounting Office requesting a full investigation of Philip Cooney, former Chief of Staff of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. They want the investigation to center around changes Cooney made in two studies commissioned by Congress done by the U.S. Climate Change Science Program (USCCSP).

This request comes after Cooney recently doctored two reports from the Climate Change Program, a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and after evidence surface he’d changed the reports, he promptly resigned.

The two major issues at hand are the authority of the administration to alter congressionally sanctioned studies from government agency and secondarily, the qualifications of Cooney to make changes to said study.

The two reports, Our Changing Planet: The Fiscal Year 2003 U.S. Global Change Research Program and the 2003 Strategic Plan for the U.S. Climate Change Science Program, are at the center of the controversy.

Philip Cooney made changes to the study before its submission to Congress. The changes in the study supported the White House position that Global Warming is still and unproven concept even though this study done by USCCSP suggested otherwise. Senator Lautenberg and Senator Reid believe the altering of this report may have been a violation of the law.

The letter to the GAO compares the original report and the changes made by the Bush Administration in detail with a side-by-side analysis, showing sections that were reworded, added too or deleted entirely. The letter kindly states Mr. Cooney was a lawyer with no scientific background and with no qualifications to alter the meanings of scientific reports. They cited two federal laws, Obstruction of Proceedings before Departments, Agencies, and Committee and Statements or Entries Generally.

In a press release issued by Lautenberg’s office, he said, “Government reports must be based on science, not science fiction. The Bush administration cannot fix’ science around their political goals.”

The team of senators also sent a letter to the USCCSP asking Dr. James Mahoney, chief of the program, to retract the two reports and any other reports Cooney may have tampered with.

“Phil Cooney’s altering of scientific reports is yet another disturbing case of this administration abusing its power to serve radical, rightwing special interests,” said Senator Reid. “Congress and the American people need to be able to trust that scientific reports are based on science, not the partisan agenda of the current administration.”

The two letters also pointed out Cooney was an oil industry insider having worked as a lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute (API). He left API when he took the White House job. He promptly resigned the White House job when this current scandal crept in and will start a job at Exxon/Mobil sometime in the fall. Both API and Exxon Mobil are staunch opponents to most environmental legislation.

The White House received intense criticism for changing the reports, many feel, to suit their own agenda by incorporating “fuzzy science.” Most scientists feel global warming is an observable and studied phenomenon that is accepted nearly all the scientific community, including science organizations that are part of the U.S. government.

During the Clinton administration, then Vice-President Al Gore was a major proponent of environmental change and was a major force behind the Kyoto Accords. President Bush upon entering office, promptly discard the Kyoto treaty and withdrew U.S. participation.

The letter to the GAO calls for a report on the analysis and legality of the Mr. Cooney’s actions.

John Stith is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.