The Waxman Cometh: Reports from Today's Oversight Hearing

The reports from today's hearing, "Political Interference with the Work of Government Climate Change Scientists," are coming in. Hosted by Representative Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing will be the first of many such investigative hearings. Part of the story is that documents demanded from the Council on Environmental Quality were not delivered on time, and then failed to meet the criteria of documents that were requested. So, in short, the Administration got off on the wrong foot ...

We're still digesting everything that happened today, but here's what we're chewing on:

Primary Material:

Hearing home page. This is the mother load on today's hearing. Waxman's statement, notice and witness list, testimony, and more. From the Committee's letter to CEQ Chairman James Connaughton:

We are writing to express our concern over your failure to provide the Committee with the documents we have requested in our inquiry into whether senior Administration officials edited scientific reports and took other actions to minimize the significance of global warming.

Over the past six months, we have had numerous communications with CEQ about this document request. [...]

In a letter sent yesterday evening, however, you indicated that you would produce nine of (39) documents to the Committee. [...]

The Committee must be able to take custody of the documents in order to make a thorough and complete review. During this review process, we will give due consideration to the concerns you have raised. But unless the President is prepared to assert a constitutional claim of executive privilege, the documents sought by the Committee should be provided without further delay.


Check out the full letter (PDF) for some of the context. Are we going to have a Cheney-energy-policy-meeting style showdown?

From Greenwire (subscription req'd)

"Unfortunately, (the nine letters submitted by CEQ) add little to our inquiry," Waxman said. "In some cases, they do not even appear to be the records we were seeking."

For his part, (ranking member Tom Davis (R-Va.)) said he was "disappointed by the lackluster production of [White House] documents."

"I think it's important to determine whether the Bush administration or anyone else has attempted to quash scientific findings," he added.

Waxman said he and Davis sent a letter today to the White House "to urge [officials] to reconsider the confrontational approach [they] are now taking."

Unless the Administration gives a little, it looks like a showdown is imminent.

News sources:

Waxman Seeks Climate Inquiry Evidence (AP)

"The committee isn't trying to obtain state secrets or documents that could affect our immediate national security," said Waxman, opening the hearing. "We are simply seeking answers to whether the White House's political staff is inappropriately censoring impartial government scientists."

"We know that the White House possesses documents that contain evidence of an attempt by senior administration officials to mislead the public by injecting doubt into the science of global warming and minimize the potential danger," Waxman said.

[...] Waxman said his committee had not received documents it requested from the White House and other agencies, and that a handful of papers received on the eve of the hearing "add nothing to our inquiry."

Waxman: White House misled public on global warming (LA Times - hat tip to Joe DiGangi)


At Prometheus, Dr. Roger Pielke, Jr. reflects on the testimony he gave and the debate that followed. As we feared might happen, the hearing seemed to have gotten slightly off-topic at points. In the end, it doesn't sound like Pielke was much a fan of the hearing

I am not sure what Mr. Waxman thinks he accomplished with this hearing other further politicizing the issue of science politicization. The whole exercise seems to prove that the politicization of science is endemic, as I argued in my testimony. If Mr. Waxman was interested in actually improving policies governing science he'd haul down agency press officers and those responsible for the process of approving government reports to focus on actual processes. The repeated calls for science and politics to be separate are just empty exhortations without discussion of actual policies.

Of course science is political at some level. But let's not confuse science politicization in the academic sense with what this hearing was about: the distortion of science for political purposes.

Chris Mooney was able to make it over there, and has a few postings on the matter over at the Intersection

To be continued ...

We're sure there will be more on this through next week, especially since Committee Chairman Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii) announced today that the Senate Commerce Committee will be holding a hearing on Climate Change Research and Scientific Integrity next Wednesday, February 7 at 10:00 a.m.


Video from today's hearing available on YouTube (hat tip to ThinkProgress)


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