BEAUMONT, Texas (Reuters) - Two Democratic state senators from Texas accused the state’s environmental agency of letting ideology trump science when it deleted information about the implications of global warming from a draft report.
The leaders of the agency, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, are appointed by Republican Governor Rick Perry, who said in a recent presidential debate that the science of climate change was “unsettled.”
At issue is “The State of the Bay 2010” report commissioned by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, which has come under scrutiny after Rice University Professor John Anderson said that an article regarding sea-level changes he contributed was censored for political reasons.
Democratic state Senators Rodney Ellis of Houston and Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio wrote to Perry appointee Bryan Shaw, chairman of the commission.
In his letter, Ellis said he concluded from the deletions that “the facts simply proved inconvenient to the agency and other state leadership, and thus they were excised.”
The commission said on Monday it would remove Anderson’s article on sea-level rise in Galveston Bay from the report, ending a standoff with Anderson over the deleted information.
Commission spokesman Andy Saenz said Anderson prematurely revealed the draft report to the media without prior approval, and that the commission did not want to include controversial implications about global warming in the report.
“Why would we include things we don’t agree with? That’s ridiculous,” Saenz said. “We were looking at not including very controversial things that are unsettled science.”
Two co-editors of the project, Jim Lester and Lisa Gonzalez, scientists with the Houston Advanced Research Center, a nonprofit research facility contracted for the report, asked the agency to remove their names, fearing their own credibility.
Lester, the center’s vice president, called the deletions “scientific censorship.” He said Anderson’s statements in the article were not political and were reviewed by lower-level staff at the agency before upper management made its own edits.
“As a scientist, my main concern is about the availability of objective science for decision-making in agencies,” Lester said.
Saenz denied the claims of scientific censorship.
“Using a word like censorship is very powerful,” he said. “It isn’t censorship to accurately report in our document what we believe. That’s being responsible. That’s being accurate.”
Saenz said the agency was preparing a response to the senators. The agency, which is embroiled in a lawsuit with the Environmental Protection Agency over greenhouse gas emissions, has been working on the report for more than two years, the agency said.
Editing by Corrie MacLaggan and Cynthia Johnston