News & Politics

Federal Environmental Lab Cooked the Books for Two Decades and No One Is Being Punished

A federal lab has been falsifying environmental data for two decades and officials refuse to name the criminals responsible or say whether they have been punished.

A United States Geological Survey (USGS) lab in Colorado was discovered to have manipulated data from 1996 to 2014 with “serious and far ranging” effects, according to a recent report by the Department of the Interior (DOI) Inspector General (IG).

The Daily Caller:

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) officials refuse to reveal who, if anyone, has been punished for nearly two decades of “disturbing” data manipulation.

Someone in the inorganic section of a USGS lab in Lakewood, Colorado manipulated data – some of which related to the environment – from 1996 to 2014, with “serious and far ranging” effects, the Department of the Interior (DOI) Inspector General (IG) recently reported.

The Energy Resources Program lab closed March 1, 2016 as a result of the bad data, but now agency officials won’t say who’s been punished or even if anybody has or will be.

“Due to the confidential nature of personnel actions, we cannot disclose any specific actions that have been taken,” USGS spokeswoman Anne-Berry Wade told The Daily Caller News Foundation. She also cited privacy laws and refused to name the officials involved.

The first data manipulation issue began in 1996 – just one year after the USGS program was created – and lasted until 2008.

“Science center officials initiated an investigation, but the employee resigned before the investigation concluded,” a May 2015 IG report said.

A House Natural Resources subcommittee has held two hearings since May scrutinizing DOI employees who escaped punishment for misconduct, or were even promoted.

The second instance began later in 2008 and lasted until 2014, when USGS halted all work at the lab before closing it two years later. The manipulation affected $108 million worth of projects, according to the IG.

“USGS is pursuing disciplinary actions for the responsible staff,” the IG reported in June 2016.

But Wade wouldn’t reveal additional details, including whether any managers that supervised the analyst who manipulated the data would face punishment. She also told TheDCNF to ask the IG whether anyone was referred to the Department of Justice for prosecution.

“We conducted a limited scope inspection and, as a result, we had no material that gave us a reason to consult with a U.S. Attorney’s office,” Assistant IG for Investigations Matthew Elliott told The DCNF.

Regardless, there’s no guarantee the Department of Justice would have prosecuted anyone, given that the agency declined 17 of 29 referrals from the IG.

The idea that this criminal activity is being treated as a personnel matter shouldn’t surprise us. Nor should the Department of Justice’s refusal to prosecute. Government workers have each other’s backs, whether it’s corruption at a lab, emails at EPA showing collusion with private green groups, IRS targeting of political foes, or the secretary of State using a private email server that exposes classified information to hackers.

The Department of Justice is enabling corruption across the government. It has become so politicized that any notion of impartiality should be abandoned. This should be kept in mind when the resolution of the investigation into Hillary Clinton is concluded and a determination is made regarding her prosecution.