We are used to Donald Trump’s five and a half lies a day, but now he has taken falsehood to a new level. The U.S. government has been losing long-term top-level employees in droves. The latest to leave over ethical issues was this top scientist, and his reason is shocking.
The Trump administration has been systematically dismantling all that has been good in the government. For example, the president put his ultra-conservative budget director, Mick Mulvaney, in charge of the Consumer Protection Agency, which Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) created. Mulvaney has been killing it.
This is even worse.
Murray Hitzman was a rising star at the U.S. Geological Survey Agency (USGS). His job was to head the agency’s energy and minerals programs. This scientist was so good, others had been considering him for the next director of the USGS. Unfortunately, he just resigned in protest.
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Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke visited Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which Trump just opened to oil and gas development. Backers have fought to keep the 19-million-acre environmentally sensitive preserve pristine for years. Why would he want the National Petroleum Reserve report data before it was published?
Hitzman wrote in his resignation letter, Mother Jones reported:
‘Scientific integrity is the bedrock of the Survey and must be preserved for the Bureau to properly serve the Nation. Though I understand my resignation will not change the data release, I feel that as head of the Energy and Minerals Mission Area I must register my protest of this action.’
Mother Jones wrote that the agency’s actions:
‘…fly in the face of decades of established practice and contradict written ethical guidelines—guidelines that are designed to ensure the integrity of the agency’s scientific research and prevent it from being exploited by anyone seeking an unfair economic advantage.’
The former deputy associate director of the energy and minerals program, Larry Meinert, spoke to Mother Jones about why he left the agency. He said in an email that part of the reason he left was the pressure on the scientists to violate the guidelines:
‘That is part of the reason why I too have now left the USGS and the public service that I was proud to perform.’
Hitzman said he was leaving because the USGS was providing Interior Secretary Zinke with the sensitive data from the agency’s Alaska energy assessment. Has the Trump administration been putting a big “for sale” sign on the nation’s resources? Hitman wrote:
‘Several days in advance of the information’s public release, in contradiction of my interpretation of USGS fundamental science policy.’
Associate deputy secretary at the Interior for President Barack Obama, Elizabeth Klein, wrote in an email to Mother Jones:
‘The problem…with asserting that authority—even if it legally exists—is that the purpose of those internal USGS policies is to preserve the reputation of the USGS as a purveyor of objective science. Once you start injecting political officials into the process of developing scientific assessments, you raise serious questions about the objectivity of the science.’
Former program coordinator for the USGS’s energy resources program from 2003 to 2014, Brenda Pierce, said that the USGS people see their rules as ironclad. Before now, when politicians wanted sensitive data, the USGS convinced them that they should not ask. She said:
‘We did take (the guidelines) very seriously. Lots and lots of people asked for results ahead of time. But we categorically denied that to anybody. To protect us and to protect them.’
Interior Department employee under President Obama and current public lands program director at the Center for American Progress, Kate Kelly, wrote in an email:
‘These assessments have the potential to move markets in a big way, No one wanted questions raised about improper use of the information.’
‘The situation raises serious questions as to whether Zinke’s team will respect the integrity of the scientific process. The American public should feel confident that their government is one where policy fits the science—not the other way around.’
Featured Image via Getty Images/George Frey.