Texas' Environmental Agency Censors Climate Scientists

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Rick Perry's appointees to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality are interested in anything but our environment.

In 2011, scientists put together a report on the Galveston Bay, in part to explore Texas' high climate change risk. In recent years, Texas has been exposed to increasingly extreme weather and more hurricanes along the coast to mass wildfires and droughts across the state. When the scientists submitted it to the TCEQ, Perry appointees immediately censored the report's references to climate change. Every single scientist who produced the 200-page report is now demanding that their name be removed from it.

Read more below the jump.”To me it is simply a question of maintaining scientific credibility. This is simply antithetical to what a scientist does,” Jim Lester, a co-author of the report and vice-president of the Houston Advanced Research Center, said. “We can't be censored.”

Perry-appointee Bryan Shaw, chairman of TCEQ, is a well known climate denier. He has his position not despite this but because of it; Rick Perry has no interest in smart regulation. In fact, TCEQ was one of the agencies that massively failed to provide adequate oversight of the West, Texas fertilizer plant before it blew up and over a dozen Texans died. The TCEQ is brazenly opposed to doing its job. In a statement from TCEQ's spokesperson Andrea Morrow explaining the agency's censorship, she didn't even bother to offer a scientific objection: “It would be irresponsible to take whatever is sent to us and publish it. Information was included in a report that we disagree with.” She later said that the report was “inconsistent with current agency policy”.

Clearly, acknowledging the overwhelming reality of human-induced catastrophic climate change is against “current agency policy”. This is depressingly unsurprising in a state that remains the only one not to sign on to new federal greenhouse gas emission standards, regularly sues the Environmental Protection Agency for doing its job, and has a climate denier making environmental appointments.

“They just simply went through and summarily struck out any reference to climate change, any reference to sea level rise, any reference to human influence – it was edited or eliminated,” said John Anderson, an oceanography professor at Rice University and the author of the offending chapter. “That's not scientific review, that's just straight forward censorship.”

“It is basically saying that the state of Texas doesn't accept science results published in Science magazine,” said Anderson. “That's going pretty far.”

Texas deliberately neglecting to protect Texans from the very real dangers of climate change is pretty far indeed. In the exact wrong direction. Later, the TCEQ reached a compromise that Anderson accepted, keeping his name on the report. But the impulse of the TCEQ to censor, and ask scientists to compromise, is one worthy of exposure and reminding.

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About Author

Ben Sherman

Ben Sherman has been a BOR staff writer since 2011. A graduate of the University of Texas, Ben has worked on campaigns, in political consulting, and has written for other news outlets like Think Progress. Ben considers campaign finance reform the fundamental challenge of our time because it distorts almost every other issue in American politics.

2 Comments

  1. JudyKayCraft on

    dated story
    The only update to the Oct 14,2011 Guardian story  on TCEQ's censorship of science is the reference to TCEQ's neglect of the West Fertilizer plant.  

    Also, you didn't explicitly note the smoking gun in the Guardian story, where John Anderson, Rice University oceanographer, was talking about only using data from peer-reviewed journal articles in his chapter:

    “Officials even deleted a reference to the sea level at Galveston Bay rising five times faster than the long-term average – 3mm a year compared to 0.5mm a year – which Anderson noted was a scientific fact.”

    Still, I don't remember any Texas news sources highlighting this story in late 2011 either.

    • JudyKayCraft on

      TCEQ compromised with scientists
      per Dec 21, 2001  Houston Chronicle story

      http://www.chron.com/news/hous

      “Texas' environmental agency has reached an agreement with a Rice University oceanographer and his editors to publish a scientific article the agency had earlier rejected because of references to climate change, human impact on the environment and sea-level rise.”

      It looks like there was a lot of pressure on the TCEQ and they backed down sulkily, but that's just my opinion.  It is good to have a reminder of how anti-Science most of Perry's minions are.

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