Polar Oil Rush Tramples Science
The Interior Department is scrambling to stanch the flow of dissent from its own scientists that undermines the legality of its aggressive offshore oil and gas lease program. The e-mails demolish Bush administration claims that environmental risks to Arctic waters were adequately considered prior to offering tracts for drilling.
Armed with agency files, PEER has released a torrent of internal e-mails and documents from current and former Interior scientists raising troubling questions about how badly environmental assessments of Arctic offshore oil development were skewed. These e-mails have fueled lawsuits that threaten to stymie new lease sales.
Reflecting mounting concern about the legal consequences of this growing stream of internal e-mails that contradict official pronouncements, Interiors Minerals Management Service (MMS), issued this January 31, 2008, e-mail order to all employees:
we have been directed to refrain from discussing the PEER press releases and the e-mail messages with anyone outside our organization including any representative with the media.
Interiors lawyers, meanwhile, are trying to prevent further releases of incriminating documents. In a letter dated January 29, 2008, the Associate Solicitor wrote PEER :
we request that you immediately cease your unauthorized publication of these privileged communications and return them to MMS, along with other MMS communications or documents in your possession that MMS has not authorized for disclosure.
Of course, PEER has every intention of continuing to publish e-mails and other internal documents that anguished scientists have provided to us. There are many more disclosures to come.