Late last week, Dr. Charles Monnett, one of most highly regarded scientists in Alaska, was informed by Walter D. Cruikshank, Deputy Director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, that the 16-month long investigation into his scientific integrity has been concluded. Though there was no adverse finding on Monnett’s integrity, he received a written reprimand regarding emails he had passed on to an Alaska tribal agency, and to an environmental activist. The emails ended up playing an important part in court proceedings which resulted in Shell Oil having to delay their plans to drill in the Arctic Ocean from 2008 to 2012. This has cost Shell several hundred million, if not more.
There was nothing in the reprimand critical of Monnett’s handling of information having to do with the 2004 sighting of dead Polar Bears in the Chukchi Sea, which became iconic through Al Gore’s use of the imagery in his movie, An Inconvenient Truth.
The organization, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility has been representing Dr. Monnett from the beginning of the investigation. They issued a press release on his reprimand on Friday:
DROWNED POLAR BEAR PROBE CLOSES WITH A WHIMPER — Unrelated Disclosures from 2007 and 2008 Dredged Up in Questionable Reprimand
Washington, DC — No charges will be brought against the federal scientist regarding his high-profile research on polar bears, despite a two-and-a-half year investigation, according to documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Instead, he has received a letter of reprimand for allegedly improper disclosures back in 2007 and 2008 which helped reveal that Bush administration Arctic offshore drilling reviews illegally suppressed adverse environmental consequences.
Up until July 2011, Dr. Charles Monnett had directed a multi-million dollar portfolio constituting a majority of research on Arctic wildlife and ecology conducted for the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM). He was temporarily suspended due to an Interior Office of Inspector General (OIG) investigation into a polar bear research contract managed by Dr. Monnett. The OIG probe, which began in March 2010, also centered on a 2004 paper authored by Dr. Monnett in the peer-reviewed journal Polar Biology concerning observations of drowned polar bears following a storm.
The final IG report, delivered to BOEM three months ago, is slated for imminent release. On Friday, September 27, 2012, BOEM informed Dr. Monnett that no action would be taken against him based on “findings made by the OIG in its report regarding your conduct” with the exception of a series of “improper disclosures of internal, deliberative government documents to a non-governmental entity” back in 2007 and 2008. These disclosures had nothing to do with polar bear research but they embarrassed the agency and were, according to the letter of reprimand, “cited by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in making decisions to vacate BOEM’s approval of the Shell exploration plan” for Arctic waters.