Polar Bear Researcher Still Waiting on Reason for Suspension

The scientist who first reported seeing dead polar bears in the waters of the Arctic Ocean says he has still not been told why he’s under investigation. Federal officials issued a brief statement Friday responding to news media accounts about polar bear researcher Chuck Monnett being placed on administrative leave. Coming from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Melissa Schwartz in Washington, the statement denies that Monnett’s 2006 scientific paper that revealed the polar bear deaths, which were likely due to vanishing sea ice, has anything to do with the Inspector General’s investigation that prompted the agency to pull Monett off duty earlier this month and put him on leave a week ago last Monday. Jeff Ruch, of the organization Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, says the statement makes the situation even more mysterious.

The statement also says that all the scientific contracts Monnett was in charge of are being handled by “the highly qualified scientists at BOEMRE.

PEER has filed a complaint on Monnett’s behalf and alleges that Monnett and a co-researcher have been harassed within the agency since before its name was changed from the Minerals Management Service — specifically ever since the paper was published in 2006.

Schwartz says she won’t speak further about the investigation. Her boss, BOEMRE head Michael Bromwich, is already on record as saying his personnel in Alaska should not talk to the news media.

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