By Michael Bastasch
The battle between National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) officials and congressional investigators may be winding down as bureaucrats have finally handed over emails to lawmakers after months of refusing to do so.
“I am encouraged by NOAA’s acknowledgment of its obligation to produce documents and communications in response to the Committee’s lawfully-issued subpoena,” Texas Republican Rep. Lamar Smith ?said in a statement after NOAA handed over its initial batch of records to the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.
“I am also glad to see that NOAA has committed to produce additional items as they are identified. We will carefully review these documents and expect additional productions from NOAA,” Smith said.
For months, Smith and NOAA have been locked in a battle over email records between agency officials regarding a June study by government scientists claiming to eliminate the “hiatus” in global warming from the temperature record. Smith quickly requested agency records related to the highly controversial study by NOAA scientist Tom Karl.
NOAA gave Smith some of the records he asked for, like the methodology and data behind the agency’s study, but officials refused to hand over email records from its staff. Smith eventually issued a subpoena in September, demanding the records NOAA was withholding from elected officials.
NOAA refused and launched a vicious media push to make Smith’s request about trying to force scientists to give up emails about their research. Smith slammed NOAA for spreading a “false” narrative about his committee’s investigation.
NOAA told a reporter in October that “[w]e stand behind our scientists who conduct their work in an objective manner. It is the end product of exchanges between scientists… that are key to understanding the conclusions reached.” NOAA said it wanted to protect the “confidentiality of deliberative scientific discussions.”
Smith’s NOAA investigation sparked a massive media backlash. Liberal news outlets attacked Smith for demanding emails from taxpayer-funded scientists. Vox said Smith’s investigations are “Orwellian attempts to intimidate some of the nation’s leading scientists and scientific institutions.”
Science groups also attacked Smith’s investigation — though a Daily Caller News Foundation story exposed that one major science group’s letter to Smith was drafted by an environmental activist.
NOAA eventually agreed to allowing House science committee staff to interview officials about the June climate study, though the agency still refused to hand over emails to the committee.
Smith, however, then came out and said agency whistleblowers told the committee NOAA’s major hiatus-busting study was “rushed” and was published “before all appropriate reviews of the underlying science.”
Now NOAA has handed over the first tranche of emails to Smith’s staff, except for emails from agency scientists responsible for June’s study — Republican staffers opted to get non-scientist emails from NOAA.