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Saturday, July 29, 2017
A top climate expert was moved to a fossil fuel accounting team after speaking out about the impacts of climate change on Alaska Native communities.
An Interior Department whistleblower has filed a complaint claiming that he was reassigned after speaking out about the impacts of climate change on Alaska Native communities.1 He was transferred to the office that collects fossil fuel royalty payments.
Joel Clement, the whistleblower, is a scientist who used to head the agency's Office of Policy Analysis. He was one of the leading climate policy experts in the government. Dozens of his colleagues have been similarly affected, including leaders in the National Park Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management, and Fish and Wildlife Service.3
Each are members of the high-level Senior Executive Service. But while it is legal to reassign these executives, that cannot be done in retaliation or to coerce employees to quit. Zinke himself admitted that he would use reassignments to cut the department's workforce.4
The Interior Department is facing other accusations of censoring climate messaging. The department has eliminated information about climate change from its websites.5 Headquarters staff even intervened to remove two climate experts from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's recent tour of Glacier National Park.6 That is the level of micromanaged censorship we are dealing with.
Climate change is serious. There are people -- including the Alaska Natives with whom Clement was working -- whose lives are already being turned upside down due to the warming climate and extreme weather. These reassigned staff entered public service to protect others -- yet now the Interior Department is not only preventing them from doing their jobs, but actively making their lives miserable.