Energy

Gov’t Suddenly Interested In Protecting Whistleblowers Right Before Trump

(REUTERS/Lucas Jackson)

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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Only days before President-elect Donald Trump is sworn in, outgoing Obama administration Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz announced a new “scientific integrity” policy intended to “protect” workers from the incoming president.

The Department of Energy’s (DOE) new policy aims to enhance whistle-blower protection laws and even create a “scientific integrity official” within the Energy Secretary’s office to enforce them. Such a policy would be legally easy to reverse by the incoming Trump administration as it is not a formal rule or regulation, but would doing so could be politically difficult.

“It’s part of establishing the environment that allows scientist to do their work, to stay with us, and to recruit new people,” Moniz told The Washington Post.

DOE is wracked by concerns about how Trump will treat employees who worked on global warming, and that the new policy will protect the DOE from possible retaliation, The Post reports. And yet, despite the the stated fears of Moniz, DOE was very willing to retaliate against whistle-blowers who helped Republicans when President Obama was in power.

Both Democrats and Republicans sitting on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology agreed the DOE probably intimidated and fired Dr. Noelle Metting, a radiation biologist at the agency, for talking to Congress about the department’s Low Dose Radiation Research Program. If true, DOE violated federal laws against whistleblower retaliation.

Metting briefed congressional staffers on scientific issues with the Low Dose Radiation Research Program, in October, 2014, which was created to study the effects of very small amounts of radiation on biological tissue. The briefing lasted for several hours, and DOE scientists talked to staffers about the status of the program, scientific uncertainty in their research, and even upcoming legislation that would impact radiation research.

After the briefing, Anderson, and another DOE official, Julie Carruthers, accused Metting of “providing Congress with too much information” and “advocating for the program,” according to a letter obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation last February. Six days after the briefing ended, Metting was fired and formally accused of “inappropriate workplace communication” for talking to Congress, according to the letter.

The committee even suspects the Energy Department may be destroying documents and information about the termination.

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