Interior Department whistleblower resigns in disgust

    “You are unwilling to lead on climate change, and cannot be trusted with our nation’s natural resources.”

    Image credit: CNN/screenshot

    A senior advisor at the Interior Department resigned last week due to the Trump administration’s poor leadership, waste of taxpayer funds, and repeated failures on climate change. In his scathing resignation letter, Office of Natural Resources Revenue (ONRR) Senior Advisor Joel Clement explained that he had blown the whistle on the Trump administration this summer because of retaliation against him for warning about the immediate dangers of climate change to Native American communities in Alaska.

    “I blew the whistle on the Trump administration because I believe you unlawfully retaliated against me for disclosing the perilous impacts of climate change upon Alaska Native communities and for working to help get them out of harm’s way,” Clement wrote in his resignation letter to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. “The investigations into my whistleblower complaints are ongoing and I hope to prevail.”

    In July, Clement publicly disclosed that he had been reassigned from the position of director of the Office of Policy Analysis to an advisor position within the accounting department after he had warned about the perils of climate change upon the health and the safety of many Alaska Native communities. In a Washington Post op-ed, Clement explained that he had no experience in accounting and had only been reassigned to ONRR as a form of punishment to silence him.

    Directly addressing Zinke in his resignation letter, Clement wrote, “Retaliating against civil servants for raising health and safety concerns is unlawful, but there are many more items to add to your resume of failure: You and President Trump have waged an all-out assault on the civil service by muzzling scientists and policy experts like myself; you conducted an arbitrary and sloppy review of our treasured National Monuments to score political  points; your team has compromised tribal sovereignty by limiting programs meant to serve Indians and Alaska Natives; you are undercutting important work to protect the western sage grouse and its habitat; you eliminated a rule that prevented oil and gas interests from cheating taxpayers on royalty payments; you cancelled the moratorium on a failed coal leasing program that was also shortchanging taxpayers; and you even cancelled a study into the health risks of people living near mountaintop removal coal mines after rescinding a rule that would have protected their health.”

    Clement also pointed out a recent incident in which Zinke openly disrespected his staff at the Interior Department by questioning their loyalty. During a speech last month, Zinke stated, “I got 30 percent of the crew that’s not loyal to the flag.”

    Citing the recent disasters in Houston, Florida, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico, Clement urged the Trump administration to reverse it’s currently policy on climate change denial while advocating for emergency preparation in the event of future disasters. Shortly after Trump’s inauguration, the White House website removed all references to “climate change.” No longer able to make an impact within the Interior Department, Clement chose to resign on Friday in order to fight Trump and Zinke from outside the shackles of bureaucracy.

    “Secretary Zinke: It is well known that you, Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt, and President Trump are shackled to special interests such as oil, gas, and mining,” Clement continued in his resignation letter. “You are unwilling to lead on climate change, and cannot be trusted with our nation’s natural resources.

    “So for those three compelling reasons – poor leadership, waste, and your failures on climate change, I tender my resignation. The best use of my skills is to join with the majority of Americans who understand what’s at stake, working to find ways to innovate and thrive despite the many hurdles ahead. You have not silenced me; I will continue to be an outspoken advocate for action, and my voice will be part of the American chorus calling for your resignation so that someone loyal to the interests of all Americans, not just special interests, can take your job.”

    In a separate letter, many former Interior Department senior officials who served under both Republican and Democratic administrations strongly criticized Secretary Zinke’s recent accusations of disloyalty among his staff. On Monday, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced a plan to roll back Obama’s efforts to limit carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants.


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