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Letter to NOAA Administrator Concerning Hurricane Publication

Oct 4, 2006

Science Committee letterhead image

October 4, 2006

Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Jr. (Ret.)
Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere
U.S. Department of Commerce
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
14thStreet and Constitution Avenue, NW
Room 5128
Washington, DC 20230

Dear Admiral Lautenbacher:

Last week, Nature magazine reported on a troubling situation in your agency involving the suppression of science. This is just the latest in a long string of such stories that have appeared this year in the Wall Street Journal, The New Republic and, just two weeks ago, Those earlier stories all involved efforts at NOAA, or by Commerce officials interfering with NOAA, to shape the kind of information that reached the public regarding climate change and more-intense hurricanes. In the Nature story, the chair of an internal NOAA panel working to produce a consensus statement on the role of climate change in hurricane science was instructed by an unidentified Commerce official not to release their work.

Only after a draft copy of that consensus statement was leaked, posted on the Climate Science Watch website, and reported on by Nature, did NOAA then publicly release an edited version of the consensus statement on its website. That occurred last Thursday, September 28, over four months after the scientific panel completed its work....

This is unacceptable and I intend to get to the bottom of the situation at NOAA. I ask for your full cooperation every step of the way. I have seen a copy of an October 3, 2006, e-mail you sent to your staff reiterating your support for scientific debate and transparency. I am glad you share my belief in the importance of transparency as I have some questions and requests of you to better understand the background to this situation.

In the interests of transparency, I ask that you provide me a copy of the e-mail of May 18, 2006, that instructed Dr. Ants Leetmaa not to distribute the product of his panel's work. I also ask for all the background e-mail that may have been exchanged between the Commerce Department official who was responsible for that May 18 e-mail and any other communications, in any form, between that official and other NOAA employees or Department of Commerce employees related to the Hurricane FAO (in whatever form or by whatever title it was known)....

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109th Congress