Apr 212014

Two Fish and Wildlife Service managers are no longer working in the service’s Tulsa, Okla., office, FWS said, responding to the release of a year-old report documenting scientific misconduct.

The two were reassigned to non-supervisory positions elsewhere, FWS said in a statement after Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility released a FOIA-obtained investigative report.

The service’s Scientific Integrity Officer (SIO) found that Field Supervisor Dixie Porter and Environmental Contaminants Branch Chief Luke Bell compromised an effort in the fall of 2011 by agency scientists to sample water in the Deep Fork River near the Kelco discharge site, where there had been a mussel kill.

Bell did not properly inform Porter about the kill or the subsequent sampling effort, which was being conducted with the state. Then Porter, acting on a request by Kelco, directed that the sampling cage be moved 30 feet away from the discharge.

The SIO “found that a loss of scientific integrity resulted from Bell’s persistent failure to effectively communicate with his supervisors, [redacted] and Dixie Porter, regarding the September 2011 mussel kill at the Kelco outlet site in the Deep Fork River and the FWS/State ephemeral data collections that followed.”

Due to that lack of communication, “the subsequent Kelco phone call to Porter on 10/18/11 was a complete surprise to [her],” the report says. “The preponderance of evidence indicates that Bell’s persistent lack of communication in this matter was a significant departure from accepted practices of a supervisor in support of [Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration Program (NRDAR)] contaminant monitoring procedures and he was aware of his actions.”

Porter decided on her own to have the cage moved. “The SIO found that a loss of scientific integrity directly resulted from Porter’s intentional actions and decision on 10/18/11, to move the live mussel monitoring cage further away from the Kelco outlet . Porter’s intentional actions were a significant departure from acceptable practices of a Field Supervisor in carrying out the Regional Director’s NRDAR science responsibilities.”

FWS said the two employees had been removed from the Tulsa office and have been reassigned to non-supervisory positions.

But PEER said the scientists who exposed the wrongdoing have not had their records cleared.

“[T]hree scientists who made or supported the complaints have been subjected to a series of retaliatory suspensions engineered by Porter and upheld by regional officials,” PEER said.

PEER also said Porter was still working as a supervisor and that Bell had resigned to work for an oil company.

FWS was asked earlier today when Porter was reassigned. So far, there has been no response.

“This case shows that one of the largest impediments facing Fish & Wildlife Service scientists seeking to protect wildlife is their own management,” PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch said.

PEER obtained the report a year after requesting it under a Freedom of Information Act appeal with Interior’s Office of Solicitor. “The report depicts a political atmosphere inside the Service where it is professionally preferable to sacrifice wildlife rather than stand up to a corporate polluter,”

The service’s statement follows:

The Service takes scientific integrity complaints very seriously, and we thank the Bureau’s Scientific Integrity Officer and the Scientific Integrity Review Panel for their careful and thorough review of the allegations raised in complaints regarding operations in our Tulsa, Oklahoma Ecological Services field office.  The Service has acted on the Review Panel’s recommendations and is taking additional steps to help ensure that such an occurrence is not repeated and to ensure scientific and management excellence in delivery of our conservation mission.  This FOIA release relates to a compromised data collection effort in the Tulsa office as part of an environmental contaminants investigation. The Service elected not to use that compromised data set in the report on the investigation.

Apr 202014

The Army Corps of Engineers/EPA proposal to define “waters of the United States” will be published Monday, April 21, kicking off a 90-day comment period scheduled to end July 21. The proposal was released for review March 25 and endured an unusually long waiting period before making it into the official Federal Register. See our [...]

Apr 112014
SeaWorld loses challenge to fine imposed for human-killer whale contact

Sea World has lost its appeal of an OSHA fine for exposing a trainer — who died working with a killer whale — to dangerous working conditions (SeaWorld v. Perez, 12-1375, D.C. Cir., 4/11/14). The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a $7,000 fine imposed after Dawn Brancheau was drowned by a killer whale in [...]

Apr 032014

Four conservation groups say the Bureau of Land Management has been shirking its responsibility to provide annual reports to the Fish and Wildlife Service Center on the health of at-risk species in California deserts. The Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility and Desert Survivors filed two notices of intent to [...]

Apr 032014

The Fish and Wildlife Service has failed to make the required 12-month finding on a petition to list the black-backed woodpecker as a threatened or endangered species in two regions – California/Oregon and the Black Hills of South Dakota/Wyoming, the Center for Biological Diversity said in a notice of intent to sue. In a press release, [...]

Apr 032014
Listing sought for San Berdoo squirrel

The Center for Biological Diversity has filed a notice of intent to sue the Fish and Wildlife Service to compel a decision on the San Bernardino flying squirrel. In a press release, CBD said the “rare, truffle-eating flying squirrel is threatened by climate change, forest habitat destruction, and predation by domestic cats, and has disappeared [...]

Apr 012014

Rep. Doc Hasting (R-Wash.) has weighed in on District Judge Emmet Sullivan’s decision upholding two multispecies settlements committing the Fish and Wildlife Service to make decisions on 757 species. The chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee said the decision “upholds the Administration’s mega-settlement with litigious environmental groups to make listing decisions for hundreds of [...]

Mar 252014

Coverage on the Web Gina McCarthy’s prepared remarks for 3/25/14 press call Audio file (MP3) of teleconference (about 30 minutes) American Rivers Earthjustice American Farm Bureau (3/17/14) Natl. Association of Home Builders Somach, Simmons & Dunn analysis EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers have released a proposed rule to clarify the extent of the [...]

Mar 142014
FWS needs to do more on Cape Wind project, judge rules<h3>But Walton also finds for feds in challenges to Mass. wind energy project</h3>

The Fish and Wildlife Service needs to make its own determination on the effects of Cape Wind on roseate terns and piping plovers, a federal judge ruled today in a multi-pronged challenge to the high-profile wind energy project off Nantucket (Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility v. Beaudreau, 10-1067 RBW, D.D.C.). Both sides claimed victory after [...]

Mar 132014

The Ninth Circuit has reversed U.S. District Judge Oliver Wanger, finding that the Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2008 delta smelt Biological Opinion was not arbitrary and capricious (San Luis and Delta-Mendota Water Authority v. Jewell, 11-15871). (Opinion from ESWR website) Below is the court’s summary of its decision, issued today (March 13). The summary was [...]