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Rick Perry's Administration Censored Climate Change Danger to Galveston Bay
By HARVEY RICE, HOUSTON CHRONICLE
Updated 09:38 p.m., Monday, October 10, 2011
GALVESTON - A long-awaited report on Galveston Bay is being delayed by accusations that Texas' environmental agency deleted references from a scientific article to climate change, people's impact on the environment and sea-level rise.
John Anderson, the Maurice Ewing professor of oceanography at Rice University and author of the article, accused the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality of basing its decision to delete certain references on politics rather than science.
"I don't think there is any question but that their motive is to tone this thing down as it relates to global (climate) change," Anderson said. "It's not about the science. It's all politics."
The article has several references to climate change but does not say it is caused by humans. However, other references to the impact people have had on the environment were deleted by TCEQ.
TCEQ spokeswoman Andrea Morrow gave no reason for the deletions in an e-mail response, saying only that the agency disagreed with information in the article.
"It would be irresponsible to take whatever is sent to us and publish it," she said.
Editors also rap agency
Anderson said TCEQ prevented the article - written for a report by the agency's Galveston Bay Estuary Program - from being published without the deletions. That, and Anderson's refusal to accept the changes, have held up publication of The State of the Bay
TCEQ contracted with the Houston Advanced Research Center to produce the report two years ago; the research center asked Anderson to write an article on sea-level rise in Galveston Bay. The research center received the final edited version of his article about three months ago, Anderson said.
Jim Lester, vice president of the research center and editor of the publication, said he, co-editor Lisa Gonzalez and Anderson have advised TCEQ officials that they do not want their names associated with the edited version.
"We feel it would impact our credibility as scientists on something where the data on sea-level rise has been censored," Lester said. He said the report would have been published a year ago, if not for the disagreement.
A 10-year study
Anderson wrote to TCEQ Commissioner Buddy Garcia Aug. 30 complaining about the censorship, including as an example the deletion of a section saying the ocean level in Galveston Bay is rising by 3 millimeters a year, compared with the long-term average of 0.5 millimeters.
"The sea level rates presented in this chapter are scientific fact, not speculation," he wrote to Garcia.
"Preventing me from publishing this chapter in its current form is a clear case of censorship, which we academicians take very seriously. I would hope that you will intervene at this point and assure that publication of The State of the Bay is no longer delayed."
Anderson said he has not heard from Garcia, although TCEQ's spokeswoman said someone from Garcia's office had tried to reach him.
Anderson said the article is a synopsis of a 10-year study he and other scientists conducted, published by the Geological Society of America. The study was peer-reviewed, meaning it was critically reviewed by other scientists.
He said TCEQ never offered an explanation for the deletions.
"They just went through the document and deleted, deleted, deleted," he said.
Lester said TCEQ officials made it clear the agency is uncomfortable with any references to human-caused climate change.
"We stayed away from human-induced climate change, but we felt like we had to talk about sea-level rise," he said. "After all, it's been happening for 12,000 years. We were surprised the data on sea-level rise became a contentious issue."
TCEQ also deleted any references to human-caused change in other contexts, including a reference to human activity being responsible for wetlands destruction.
"I think that we're seeing an expression of the ideology of the TCEQ leadership," Lester said. "I can't think of any other reason why these would be contentious issues."
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