House members have their own spin on Heartland controversy

The MSM finally picks up on our report of EPA deleting records of its grants to Gleick.

The Environment & Energy Daily report is below.

###

House members have their own spin on Heartland controversy

Jean Chemnick, E&E reporter
Published: Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Heartland document leak furor has arrived on Capitol Hill, with some lawmakers calling for the federal government to respond to Heartland’s climate-related programs on the one hand, and others focusing on leaker Peter Gleick and his think tank on the other.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) questioned U.S. EPA officials during a House Science subpanel hearing Tuesday about the agency’s past support for the Pacific Institute, a California think tank founded by Gleick, who is on a temporary leave of absence as its president.

The Pacific Institute conducts research on climate change, among other issues, and EPA has awarded it $468,675 in grants over the past 10 years.

Rohrabacher asked EPA officials whether the agency’s new Scientific Integrity Policy, which applies to grantees, would affect the Pacific Institute’s ability to secure grant funding in the future.

Gleick acknowledged last month that he lied about his identity to obtain internal documents from rival conservative think tank the Heartland Institute, a leading skeptic about humans’ role in climate change.

“How does this new policy address circumstances with Gleick?” Rohrabacher asked.

There is no indication that EPA’s grants supported anything apart from scientific research at the Pacific Institute, as even one critic of the agency concedes.

“Certainly what Gleick did to Heartland had nothing to do with the EPA,” said Steve Milloy, who maintains the climate skeptic blog Junk Science.

But Milloy said EPA appeared to be taking steps to distance itself from Pacific Institute anyway.

Milloy said EPA deleted records of its grants to the Pacific Institute from public databases in the days after Gleick went public with his role in the controversy, only to put them back up later with new URLs.

EPA did not return calls for comment.

At the same time conservatives are starting to focus on the Pacific Institute, Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) continues to call for an investigation of an Interior Department’s assistant director of programs, science and technology policy, Indur Goklany, who contributed to a Heartland Institute publication.

Grijalva, co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said while he did not know whether Goklany broke any rules in working for Heartland, he would welcome the opportunity to find out.

“If we have Interior employees that are being paid by this organization that is notorious for writing anti-climate change studies, if they’re being paid while they’re working for us, then that is clearly an ethical violation, if not legal,” he said. “We want it looked into.”

Goklany does not work on climate issues for Interior, but he contributed to a publication published by Heartland that seeks to refute findings by the vast majority of the world’s climate scientists that man-made climate change is occurring. The Heartland budget documents that Gleick made public showed that Goklany is set to receive $1,000 a month to contribute to another edition this year.

Grijalva, a member of the House Natural Resources Committee, asked Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) for an oversight hearing last month after the documents were made public. The chairman refused.

“Currently we are focused on addressing rising gas prices, the need for job-creation and the President’s fiscal 2013 budget proposal, so I don’t anticipate the Committee’s attention to be diverted to Rep. Grijalva’s request,” said Crystal Feldman , a spokeswoman for Hastings, in an email.

Grijalva then requested in a letter that Interior’s inspector general investigate whether Goklany broke any rules in his relationship with Heartland. The IG’s office has confirmed it is looking into the matter.

In all likelihood, Goklany did not break any rules, said Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility Executive Director Jeff Ruch.

Federal employees are required to disclose outside income in order to rule out any conflicts of interest, but there is no evidence that Goklany did not do that.

The rule is mainly intended to ensure that federal employees are not being paid out by the industries they regulate or that have business with the agencies. It is difficult to see how this would apply to a policy think tank like Heartland, Ruch said.

“I’m not sure what the conflict would be for Interior, which has nebulous if negligible climate responsibilities,” he said.

The agencies cannot constrict Goklany’s activities because of his skeptical views on climate change, Ruch added.

“Once you start regulating that kind of off-duty speech, if you have a scientist who writes an article about the dangers of global warming, they would be subject to the same sort of review,” he said. “So it’s hard to do it on the basis of content.”

Goklany did not respond to calls to comment for this article.

Reporter Phil Taylor contributed. [Emphasis added]