Lawmaker Adjusts Climate Change Subpoena Demands on NOAA

Denis Burdin /

Tacking a bit in his battle with the executive branch over climate change, House Science panel Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, on Tuesday redirected some of the demands in the subpoena he sent to Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker seeking internal emails from scientists preparing a controversial study of global temperature change.

In a Dec. 1 letter, Smith said that he was unimpressed with the arguments from Kathryn Sullivan, administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which produced the study last summer, on why internal emails between scientists fine-tuning the temperature data would not be delivered to the House Science, Space and Technology Committee. But “in order to move the committee’s work forward and to allow for further discussions on issues related to the subpoenaed communications about which the agency and the committee disagree, the committee is willing to accommodate NOAA and prioritize communications sent and received by non-scientific personnel,” he wrote. “However, this prioritization does not alleviate NOAA’s obligation to respond fully to the committee’s subpoena.”

Hence, by Dec. 15, Smith wants NOAA to deliver all communications from the agency surrounding the study from any official in the office of the administrator, the Office of Communications and External Affairs, the Office of Legislative and Intergovernmental and Affairs, and the Office of the Chief Information Officer from January 2014 to the present.

“NOAA has steadfastly refused to discuss the issue of communications relating to any NOAA official with the committee,” Smith wrote. “To date, NOAA has not provided any legal argument justifying its refusal to comply with the committee’s lawfully-issued subpoena, and the committee continues to consider all available means to ensure agency compliance with its Constitutionally-obligated oversight responsibilities.”

A NOAA spokeswoman said the agency received the letter and is reviewing it. 

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