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Environment: Probe of Arctic scientist ends inconclusively

A June 2012 image shows sea ice breaking up in the Beaufort Sea, targeted by energy companies for oil drilling.

Investigation ends with letter of reprimand for leaking emails

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY —A Kafka-esque federal probe of a polar biologist ended inconclusively this week, as biologist Charles Monnett got a mild slap on the wrist for an alleged breach of policy that was unrelated to the focus of the 2.5-year investigation.

No charges will be brought against the Monnett regarding his high-profile research on polar bears, according to documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, but according to the Alaska Dispatch, the federal government still maintains that Monnett and a co-researcher may have used incomplete and perhaps even false data in writing a report about polar bear drownings.

According to the Alaska Dispatch, the Inspector General report also suggested that Monnett “intended to manipulate data to meet a personal agenda, including influencing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to list the polar bear under the Endangered Species Act.”

To this point, Monnett has received a letter of reprimand for allegedly improper disclosures back in 2007 and 2008 which helped reveal that Bush administration suppressed scientific information about oil drilling impacts.

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Arctic science probe looking more like witch hunt

Polar bears in the Arctic. PHOTO COURTESY USGS.

Long-running investigation appears to be heading nowhere

By Summit Violce

SUMMIT COUNTY — Federal investigators last week continued to pursue what looks more and more like a witch hunt against scientists who are researching Arctic ecosystems by interviewing new witnesses.

The investigation, which has changed course and shifted shape several times since 2010, is now looking at data from a long-running bowhead whale survey program, but the main effect has been to leave some federal scientists fearful about potential career risks associated with overseeing Arctic Research projects, according to a whistle-blower protection and watchdog group. Continue reading

Polar bear probe looks like fishing expedition

On the path to extinction. PHOTO BY USGS/STEVEN AMSTRUP.

Investigation of federal scientists takes a strange turn during latest round of interviews

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — If Franz Kafka were still alive, he’d no doubt be closely following the curious case of the ongoing investigation swirling around a pair of federal scientists who helped raise public awareness about environmental issues in the Arctic.

The controversial investigation by the Interior Department Office of Inspector General into a 2006 peer-reviewed journal article on drowned polar bears this week veered off into new directions which appear to solidify rather than impeach the article, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a watchdog group that has been following the case and providing legal representation for the scientists. Continue reading

Investigation of arctic scientist going nowhere

A polar bear in the Arctic. PHOTO COURTESY USGS/SUSANNE MILLER.

Is. Dr. Charles Monnett being muzzled for his work on global warming and polar bears?

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Federal investigators continue to claim they are investigating an Arctic scientist for his role in administering research contracts, but documents released by a watchdog and whistle-blower protection group this week suggest the investigation is off base. Read the transcript of the latest interview of Monnett.

That gives more credence to the suggestion that Dr. Charles Monnett is the target of a politically motivated witch hunt that may be linked with his observations on polar bears and climate change.

Monnett, who works for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, was suspended a few months ago pending results of the investigation, then reinstated, albeit in a different position. Continue reading

Environment: Arctic researcher Dr. Charles Monnett back at work after feds lift suspension, but investigation continues

Is the investigation of Dr. Charles Monnett about polar bears, or about the integrity of federal scientific contracting policies? PHOTO BY STEVEN AMSTRUP/USGS.

Scientist still under cloud, as watchdog group launches counter-investigation of federal agency

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Dr. Charles Monnett, a federal researcher who was suspended in mid-July and investigated for his handling of scientific contracts is back at work today — but the investigation continues, according to Melissa Schwartz, the deputy chief of Staff and communications director for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Regulation and Enforcement.

“He was informed that he will have no role in developing or managing contracts of any kind, and will instead be in our environmental assessment division … The Office of the Inspector General’s (OIG) independent investigation is ongoing,” Schwarz said via email.

“There is no truth to any suggestion that the return to work is in any way tied to PEER’s allegations against bureau leadership,” she continued, referring to charges by an environmental watchdog and whistle-blower protection group that the investigation of Monnett is a scientific witch hunt related to the scientist’s publication of a 2006 paper on potential global warming impacts to polar bears. Continue reading

Tracking big oil: National environmental groups challenge federal investigation of Arctic researcher Charles Monnett

Who's in charge of Arctic science? PHOTO COURTESY USGS/STEVEN AMSTRUP.

Federal regulators say scientists integrity and contracting are at the basis of the investigation

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Two national environmental groups have formally requested a full investigation into the suspension of Dr. Charles Monnett, an Arctic researcher who has been the subject of an ongoing investigation by the Department of Interior Inspector General.

Monnett works for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, the federal agency that permits offshore drilling. During a research project several years ago, Monnett saw drowned polar bears in the Arctic Ocean and later published an article on his observations.

The Center for Biological Diversity and Greenpeace say they are looking for documents that might show whether Monnett was the subject of correspondence between the agency and Shell Oil, which last week won approval for a controversial plan to drill in the coastal water of the Beaufort Sea.

Monnett’s circumstances were brought to light by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a watchdog and whistle-blower protection group. Memos and other documents suggest that the investigation of Monnett focused on his polar bear research. Continue reading

Global warming: Polar bear lies refuted

On the path to extinction. PHOTO BY USGS/STEVEN AMSTRUP.

The future looks dim for Arctic predators

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — A recent story about the travails of a federal researcher who is being investigated after documented drowning polar bears drew a record number of page views for Summit Voice — more than 75,000 in two days, which isn’t too bad for an 19-month-old news blog with a full-time staff of one, plus a handful of volunteer citizen journalists.

The scientist, Charles Monnet, is being investigated by the Interior Department’s Inspector General, supposedly for integrity issues and for his management of contracts related to an ongoing polar bear study. This means, of course, that the whole issue instantly became highly politicized in the context of the polar bear’s status as the first animal to be put on the endangered species list because of global warming, and the ongoing economic pressure to drill for more oil off the coast of Alaska.

The story also drew a number of interesting comments, and one of the most interesting themes that emerged was that there appears to be some belief out there that polar bears are just fine; that there are more polar bears than ever before and that there’s no need to do anything to protect them.

It’s a sheer, bald-faced lie. I’d have a lot more respect if those folks just said they don’t care about polar bears, and that being able to buy cheap gasoline is more important to them than protecting an endangered species. I know a lot of people feel like that; I just haven’t met too many who are willing to come right out and say it. Continue reading

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