Home > Uncategorized > NY Times Exposes Sham Climate Denial Science, Conflicts of Interest, and Misconduct

NY Times Exposes Sham Climate Denial Science, Conflicts of Interest, and Misconduct

Corporate Cash Buys Denialist “Science”

Christie DEP Science Advisory Board Has Gross Corporate Conflicts of Interest

Report on Regulation of Chemicals Written By Dupont and United Water Corporate Hacks

We do a lot of work on issues of scientific integrity and how corporations “manufacture doubt” to undermine public health and environmental regulation, so we are obviously pleased that the New York Times put those issues in play today.

The New York Times published a story today on the corruption of science by industry money, see: Deeper Ties to Corporate Cash for Doubtful Climate Researcher

For years, politicians wanting to block legislation on climate change have bolstered their arguments by pointing to the work of a handful of scientists who claim that greenhouse gases pose little risk to humanity.

One of the names they invoke most often is Wei-Hock Soon, known as Willie, a scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who claims that variations in the sun’s energy can largely explain recent global warming. He has often appeared on conservative news programs, testified before Congress and in state capitals, and starred at conferences of people who deny the risks of global warming.

But newly released documents show the extent to which Dr. Soon’s work has been tied to funding he received from corporate interests.

He has accepted more than $1.2 million in money from the fossil-fuel industry over the last decade while failing to disclose that conflict of interest in most of his scientific papers. At least 11 papers he has published since 2008 omitted such a disclosure, and in at least eight of those cases, he appears to have violated ethical guidelines of the journals that published his work.

That is blatant conflict of interest and gross scientific misconduct. Dr. Soon is sure to be soon gone from the Smithsonian.

The egregious nature of the conflict of interest documented by the NY Times reminds me of equally blatant conflicts right here in NJ that we have tried to expose, see:  NEW JERSEY HANDS DRINKING WATER SAFEGUARDS TO DUPONT

We could just have easily headlined that Report “NEW JERSEY HANDS DRINKING WATER SAFEGUARDS OFF TO UNITED WATER”.

Those efforts have been ignored by the NJ press corps, who seem to have more important things to write about, like the latest Christie scandal.

So, in light of the bright light on the issue created by the Gray Lady’s story today, perhaps an intrepid NJ reporter will understand the nature of the issue and feel emboldened by the paper of record to cover the issue right here in their backyard.

Let me lay it out for readers and intrepid journalists alike:

  • The DEP Science Advisory Board recommendation

There are hundreds of synthetic chemicals in our air and water that poison people and ecosystems that are not regulated. They are euphemistically referred to as “contaminants of emerging concern” by regulators.

In fact, the US Geological Survey and NJ DEP have found over 500 of those chemicals in NJ water supplies, see: FILTER THE CHEMICAL SOUP IN NEW JERSEY’S DRINKING WATER

DEP Commissioner Martin asked his hand picked Science Advisory Board to provide recommendations on whether and how to regulate these chemicals. Here’s how the SAB framed Commissioner Martin’s “charge topic” in their Final Report;

Issue

Numerous chemicals, some of which may be a potential risk to human or environmental health, are used every day in New Jersey (NJ) for industrial, commercial and household purposes. Contaminants of Emerging Concern (CEC) are those that present a concern for both hazard and exposure. A number of these chemicals may find their way into the State’s wastewater treatment facilities, receiving waters, aquifers and drinking water treatment facilities and other chemicals may be released to air or deposited in soils. CEC have raised concern around the world, as once released, these products pose a potential threat to biota and the environment. To address this issue specifically in New Jersey, the NJDEP Science Advisory Board (SAB) formed the CEC work group which was asked to investigate this issue.

With that set of issues in mind, here is a key recommendation from the DEP SAB Final Report on Contaminants of Emerging Concern:

It is recommended that the hazard assessment be conducted using a platform called METIS (Metanomics Information System) developed by DuPont. METIS is a chemical informatics platform that provides a screening level view of potential environmental fate and effects, human health concerns, and societal perception concerns.

Did you catch that?

The DEP SAB recommended a chemical hazard assessment method developed by Dupont, a chemical manufacturer that would be subject to the regulations of those chemicals.

But it gets worse.

The SAB Final Report was conveyed to DEP Commissioner Martin from a Rutgers University Professor, on Rutgers letterhead.

The Rutgers transmittal letter emphasized the role of sub-committee Chair John Dyksen, who just so happens to be a corporate official with United Water and of John Gannon, who just so happens to be a corporate official with Dupont.

Dear Commissioner Martin,

It is my pleasure to convey to you a report on Contaminants of Emerging Concern that has been approved by the Science Advisory Board. This report was written by a sub- committee of the Board, chaired by John Dyksen, with significant input from John Gannon. It was my great pleasure to be a part of this subcommittee.

Get that?

The SAB Report was written by two corporate officials, one from Dupont, who also happened to develop the chemical hazard assessment method, the other from a corporation that makes profits off water.

That has got to be a gross conflict of interest, right?

Here are DEP’s SAB Ethics requirements:

Conflict of Interest and Recusal

You must recuse yourself from deliberations on any subject matter in which you have a financial or other personal interest (“conflict of interest”). This means that when an issue or topic for consideration (“charge topic”) is identified by the NJDEP Commissioner to the SAB or Standing Committee, you must refrain from participating in any discussion of that charge topic (or issues that subsequently arise from that charge topic) and must immediately publicly disclose your conflict of interest and recuse yourself from that charge topic.

For purposes of the above restriction, “conflict of interest” means any financial or other interest which conflicts with the service of the individual because it 1) could significantly impair the individual’s objectivity or 2) could create an unfair competitive advantage for any person or organization. “Recusal” means the process by which a person is disqualified, or disqualifies himself or herself from a matter because of a conflict of interest.

With respect to Gannon (Dupont) and Dyksen (United Water) I particularly like this DEP example of a conflict of interest that requires recusal:

  • The SAB/SC member is employed (or self-employed) by an entity that is regulated by NJDEP or an entity that represents clients before NJDEP or the member is employed by an entity that comes before the NJDEP in a lobbying or other capacity and a charge topic is related to the member’s employment.

So, let’s apply that DEP SAB conflict of interest policy:

1. Dupont and United Water are regulated by the DEP.

2. The subject matter of the SAB Final Report involves the need for regulation of chemicals manufactured by Dupont and subject to costly treatment requirements by United Water.

3. It is so obvious that it almost goes without saying that Dupont has huge financial interests in DEP scientific and regulatory decisions about whether and how to regulate currently unregulated chemicals.

4. Dupont gains competitive advantage by advanced insider knowledge of the development of and an ability to influence DEP regulation.

5. A Dupont official has an obvious bias that would significantly impair his objectivity.

There are at least 4 blatant violations of the DEP SAB ethics restrictions on conflicts of interest. 

Similarly, United Water has equally obvious significant economic interests in whether and to what degree DEP regulates currently unregulated chemicals. United Water has similar competitive advantage and bias/impaired objectivity problems.

How is this not a scandal worthy of New York Times coverage?

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