Feds Don’t Know Why Lab Analyst Manipulated Energy Data For Years

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U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) officials can’t figure out a federal laboratory analyst’s motive for manipulating energy-related data for approximately six years, according to an agency letter made public Friday.

“We have been unable to determine either the rationale for the data manipulation, or any consistent calculations that the analyst used in performing those data manipulations,” USGS Deputy Director William Werkheiser wrote.

Werkheiser’s comment contradicts another USGS official’s prior statement.

“We don’t think this was something where the analyst was trying to get a certain outcome to influence a decision or report,” USGS spokeswoman Anne-Berry Wade previously told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

It’s unclear how the agency can know an analyst was not exerting influence through data manipulation while simultaneously being uncertain of his motives. Wade did not respond to TheDCNF’s request for comment.

An analyst at a Lakewood, Colo. USGS lab manipulated data from 1996 to 2008, and a second analyst continued the practice from 2008 to 2014, TheDCNF previously reported. The lab was consequently shutdown in March 2016.

Werkheiser’s letter – dated Oct. 7 – was a response to requests from House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chairman Louie Gohmert. Gohmert is a Texas Republican. (RELATED: Federal Lab’s ‘Extremely Troubling’ Data Manipulation Spurs Hill Probe)

“The USGS promptly provided public notice of the initial incident of scientific misconduct once we understood the general extent of the misconduct,” Werkheiser’s letter said. He noted that an April 2010 notification was actually an update to a January 2009 post.

Meanwhile, the Department of the Interior Inspector General – who oversees USGS – was unaware of the first manipulation incident until officials began work on a May 2015 report, TheDCNF previously reported. Werkheiser didn’t explain why USGS delayed announcing the second data manipulation instance.

He did, however, add that USGS requires “robust” scientific integrity training. The requirement was mandated by a June 2015 memo, which was issued about seven years after the first data manipulation instance was caught.

Regardless, agency officials “place great value in the scientific integrity of the USGS,” the letter said.

Additionally, USGS officials “have not identified instances where manipulated data was used to inform decision making,” the letter said. “The USGS is not aware of any federal or state statutes or regulations that were implemented based on data that was derived from the [Lakewood lab] during the time period in question.”

That means the federal lab did not influence policy for 18 years.

It may also be impossible to identify effected projects involving uranium, something Gohmert – a Texas Republican – asked about specifically. USGS didn’t collect the intended use of the analyzed data prior to analysis, Werkheiser wrote.

“The intended use of analysis results … was not necessary for, and therefore not collected prior to” testing, which means “information regarding” the manipulation in “projects involving uranium analysis may not be available,” the letter said.

Werkheiser also reversed a previous USGS claim that the lab’s poor climate control influenced its machinery.

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