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Alaska polar bear scientist under investigation

Alaska Dispatch

The federal agency that permits and regulates offshore oil development has suspended one of its own scientists while he is being investigated on "integrity issues," according to the Associated Press via NPR and numerous other news outlets. Charles Monnett, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement scientist who in 2004 reported drowned polar bears in the Arctic, has been suspended while the inspector general's office looks into what may result in misdemeanor charges. But Monnett, who has been prohibited from talking to the press, has plenty of defenders, including Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a longtime Washington, D.C.-based group that advocates for federal employees who have come under fire. The group plans to file a complaint on Monnett's behalf, contending he has been persecuted in violation of policy that is supposed to protect scientists from political interference. The bureaucratic drama is playing out as Shell Oil and other companies await word on whether BOEMRE and other federal regulators will allow them to drill in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas next summer and beyond. Read the AP story here and PEER's response here and a February interview of Monnett by the inspector general's office here.