The Commerce Department is investigating claims by one of its former scientists that an Obama administration climate change study was rushed out using "unverified" data.
Republican lawmakers are waiting for an update on the federal probe, which was initiated a month ago. But a Commerce Department spokesman declined to comment on any of its specifics.
"They will be holding a third-party investigation into the process related to this study," said a senior GOP aide on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, which has begun its own probe into what it describes as agency "misconduct" involving the scientific process.
The committee's chairman, Republican Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, said last month that the new "revelations raise additional questions as to whether the science at [Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] is objective and free from political interference."
The committee is expecting to be briefed once the investigation has produced some findings, "and we look forward to that briefing," the aide said.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration briefly stated last month that it would be looking into statements made by one of its former employees, John Bates, who until last year was one of two officials in charge of vetting all NOAA data before publication. It said it "takes seriously any allegation that its internal processes have not been followed and will review the matter appropriately," a spokesman said.
A furor broke out last month when Bates told the British newspaper the Mirror on Sunday that a report refuting previously released scientific data on a global warming hiatus had not crossed his desk before publication and therefore was "unverified." The global warming hiatus was a period between 1998 and 2013 in which the rise in global temperatures had been slowing.
Conservative groups and Republican lawmakers had criticized the 2015 study as a politicized tool used to justify the goals of former President Barack Obama's climate change agenda, noting that it was released during the same year as the Paris climate change talks.
Bates said the lead author of the warming hiatus study, Thomas Karl, is guilty of "insisting on decisions and scientific choices that maximized warming and minimized documentation … in an effort to discredit the notion of a global warming pause, rushed so that he could time publication to influence national and international deliberations on climate policy."
The claims made by Bates have re-energized the debate over whether the study was scientific fact or used as a political tool to show the Earth's climate has risen uninterrupted to justify Obama's policy directives.
"This does help open our eyes," the committee aide said. Adhering to the scientific process and its integrity should be an "important priority" for the agencies and for the rulemaking process, the aide said.
At the same time, the House science committee is pushing for more documents from NOAA, in the hope it will shine a light on why proper procedure was not followed when it came to the climate change study, according to staff.
Committee Chairman Lamar Smith "is still open to use any of the tools available to him, whether it be hearings, depositions, transcripts, subpoenas, if necessary." Smith has been just as tenacious in the past "when NOAA continued to obstruct the committee's investigation," the staffer said.
Last month, NOAA provided new documents to the committee in light of Bates' statements and a request by the chairman, which staff is continuing to look through.
Smith is hoping that Congress will have a different relationship with NOAA now that President Trump is in office. "It's our hope that NOAA will continue to provide documents on a rolling basis, and if that's the case, I think that will please the chairman," the staffer said.