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US scientists accuse Perry officials of censorship
by Staff Writers
Austin, Texas (AFP) Oct 14, 2011

Republican White House hopeful Rick Perry was under fire Friday after Texas was accused of censorship for deleting references to climate change and sea-level rise from an environmental report.

The conservative Christian Texas governor, who is chasing the Republican nomination for the 2012 elections, has come under increasing scrutiny for his battles with scientists over issues of climate change as well as his thoughts on evolution.

The latest controversy was over the planned third edition of the "State of Galveston Bay," a 200-page report that the state's environmental agency commissioned a Houston research center to complete.

But the scientists who wrote the report have accused the agency of political interference for deleting references to climate change, human impact on the environment and sea-level rise.

"It's censorship," said John Anderson, an oceanographer with Rice University who disclosed this week how state officials gutted his work.

"It's not a scientific review to just 'X' out any sentences on climate warming, human intervention and sea-level rise," Anderson told AFP. "That's not scientific editing. That's censorship."

Anderson said his work didn't break new ground, but was a synopsis of studies he and his students have previously published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Citing one example of the changes, Anderson said the agency deleted a section saying that the level of Galveston Bay -- a large body of water just southeast of the state's largest city, Houston -- has risen 3 millimeters (0.1 inches) annually in recent years, up from 0.5 millimeters historically.

Anderson said it was alarming that officials with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality would alter a document designed to summarize for policymakers the latest scientific findings, which could prevent the state from working to protect Texas's coastal areas.

TCEQ spokeswoman Andrea Morrow said the state environmental agency disagreed with information in the report, but declined to provide details. In a short statement, she said: "It would be irresponsible to take whatever is sent to us and publish it."

Commission officials had tried to "amend the data" because it was "inconsistent with current agency policy" but were turned down, the statement added.

TCEQ is managed by a three commissioners, all of whom were appointed by Perry. TCEQ Chairman Bryan Shaw has been particularly outspoken about his opposition to scientific findings of rising global temperatures and climate change.

Anderson said he sent a letter to a commissioner complaining about censorship, but received no response. He handed reporters a draft document that showed the agency had deleted or altered just about every reference to climate change and the human impact on the environment of Galveston Bay.

All five scientists who worked on the document have asked for their names to be removed, said Jim Lester, vice president of the Houston Advanced Research Center and editor of the report.

"If I went along with scientific censorship my credibility in the scientific community would go down to zero," Lester said. "There will be no scientist's name associated with it. None of the authors will have anything to do with this."

Lester said the document sailed through the initial editing process but then bogged down when TCEQ insisted it also be reviewed by the agency's top management. It was the first time the report had gone through another such review.

"I'm 64 and been a scientist all my life and I've never seen anything like it," said Lester, who argued the process clearly indicated political meddling.

Perry has long courted controversy with scientists, environmentalists and even the federal government over climate change, rising global temperatures and environmental regulations.

The US Environmental Protection Agency has taken over parts of Texas's permitting authority because the state refused to comply with federal demands.

And Texas has filed several lawsuits challenging EPA rules, insisting they are inefficient, don't benefit the environment and harm industry.

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