Scientist who identified global warming threat to polar bears wins settlement
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November/December 2013:
WASHINGTON D.C.––Charles M. Monnett, 65, whose observation
of four polar bear carcasses floating in the Beaufort Sea in September
2004 drew global attention to the effects of global warming, on
November 15, 2013 accepted a six-point retirement agreement negotiated
by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel in settlement of a whistleblower
complaint against the U.S. Department of Interior.
Monnett, then a senior scientist for the Bureau of Ocean &
Energy Management, discovered the polar bear remains while doing an
aerial search for endangered bowhead whales with colleague Jeffrey
Gleason, who later left the BOEM. The bears were 125 to 185 miles from
the nearest sea ice. Only 12 polar bears had been observed swimming in
the preceding 25 years of aerial marine mammal surveys, and none had
ever been found dead at sea.
Monnett published his findings in the January 2006 edition of
the journal Polar Ecology, actually released in mid-December 2005.
Lawsuits filed by the World Wildlife Fund and other environmental and
animal charities against Interior Department agencies including the BOEM
subsequently delayed plans by Royal Dutch Shell to do exploratory
drilling in the Beaufort Sea, and in 2008 led to polar bears being
protected as a threatened species, against the opposition of the oil
industry and trophy hunters.
Even before publication, the Office of Inspector General for
the Interior Department alleged, WWF had corresponded with Monnett
about the possibility of using his findings in a fundraising campaign.
“Monnett was subjected to a heavy-handed, baseless and
prolonged three-year investigation,” recounted Kirsten Stade of
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. PEER represented
Monnett in his whistleblower complaint.
“Despite numerous interrogations, searches of tens of
thousands of emails, and four separate criminal referrals against
Monnett and his coauthor (Gleason), all rejected, BOEM found no
scientific error by either scientist. Following its inability to
identify any scientific error,” Stade continued, “BOEM ultimately
issued Monnett a letter of reprimand, the lowest level of discipline,
for a series of five e-mails he sent to outside individuals in 2007 and
2008,” allegedly improperly disclosing government information.
Monnett countered, Stade said, on grounds including that “That
the mails documented BOEM legal violations in trying to ram through
Arctic offshore drilling permits that were later thrown out in court.”
As part of the settlement with Monnett, the Interior Department
withdrew the letter of reprimand; restored to Monnett an award from the
Interior Secretary he had received in 2010 but with his name removed;
and paid Monnett $100,000. Monnett agreed that he would “not reapply
to any position with the Department of Interior or any of its Bureaus
for a period of five years,” by which time he would be 70 years old,
and withdrew two pending legal actions responding to the Office of
Inspector General investigation and the role of top BOEM officials in
Said Monnett, “This agency attempted to silence me, discredit
me and our work, and send a chilling message to other scientists at a
key time when permits for oil and gas exploration in the Arctic were
being considered. I believe that what they did to me made others afraid
to speak up, even internally. I can no longer in good conscience work
for an agency that promotes dishonesty, punishes those who actually
stand up for scientific integrity, and that cannot tolerate scientific
work not pre-shaped to serve its agenda.”