This post has been updated.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on Tuesday sent some internal communications regarding a June climate study to the House Science Committee after Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) subpoenaed the agency.
NOAA sent internal communications from some NOAA officials about the climate study, but did not include communications from any agency scientists. Smith had told the agency earlier this month that NOAA could prioritize documents from non-scientist officials.
“I am encouraged by NOAA’s acknowledgment of its obligation to produce documents and communications in response to the Committee’s lawfully-issued subpoena,” Smith said in a Wednesday statement. “I am also glad to see that NOAA has committed to produce additional items as they are identified. We will carefully review these documents and expect additional productions from NOAA.”
NOAA spokesperson Ciaran Clayton said in a statement that the documents sent over by the agency don’t indicate that the agency was politically motivated in conducting or publishing the study.
“We appreciate that the Chairman’s latest letter refocused the committee’s request away from NOAA scientists,” Clayton said. “The documents include discussions that show NOAA front office staff was aware that the study was particularly noteworthy and would likely be the focus of scrutiny and debate. At the same time, there is nothing in these materials that would support the notion that substance or timing of the paper was politically motivated.”
Smith and NOAA have been engaged in a months-long battle over a study published by the agency’s scientists that contradicts earlier research showing that global warming had slowed over the past few years. Smith has accused NOAA of altering data in order to “to get the results they needed to advance this administration’s extreme climate change agenda.”
The Republican congressman first requested documents from the agency in July, specifically asking for internal communications from the scientists who published the research. He then subpoenaed NOAA in October and has demanded that the agency turn over the documents numerous times.
NOAA repeatedly refused to turn over any internal communications, citing the importance of scientists’ confidentiality when it comes to discussing the scientific process. After NOAA’s resistance, Smith temporarily lowered his expectations, asking for internal communications just from non-scientist officials.
But in his December letter to NOAA asking them to first send documents from non-scientists, Smith wrote that “this prioritization does not alleviate NOAA’s obligation to respond fully to the Committee’s subpoena.”
In a Tuesday letter to Smith, Coby Dolan, the director of legislative and intergovernmental affairs at NOAA, wrote that the agency is “continuing to search for additional documents that may be responsive to this request.”
Andrew Rosenberg, the director of the Union of Concerned Scientists’s Center for Science and Democracy, told TPM that he hopes this set of NOAA documents will satisfy Smith. Rosenberg, along with many others in the scientific community, has warned that Smith’s subpoena could have a “chilling effect on science.”
“This was a manufactured controversy in the first place,” Rosenberg said on Thursday. “Hopefully this means we can move on and actually do something far more productive as opposed to investigating individual studies whose results you don’t like.”