Monday, June 21, 2010

Alberta Government Scientific Slander

An Alberta Government scientist upholds the fine traditions of Trofim Denisovich Lysenko:

Alberta researcher Peter Lee couldn’t believe his ears as a senior provincial government scientist publicly accused him and a colleague of deliberately manipulating and even lying about data in a critical report on the oil sands.

“To put it bluntly, I was gob-smacked,” said Mr. Lee, of Edmonton-based Global Forest Watch Canada. “I was actually speechless. It was quite shocking.”

Now, under threat of a lawsuit, the government scientist has apologized, retracted the statements and coughed up $1,000 to cover legal fees.


“It was completely over the line of what is considered scientific criticism,” Dr. Timoney said. “… This sort of thing was not science. It’s just defamation.”

They asked Dr. McEachern for clarification, but in the meantime, his presentation was published on the website of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, as well as the sites of two other industry groups. This spring, CAPP unveiled a massive public-relations campaign to defend Alberta’s energy sector. (Premier Ed Stelmach has said the government is trying to improve its communications around the oil sands.)

When Dr. McEachern didn’t respond, according to the researchers, they turned to lawyers and threatened to sue, dispatching a letter last month that also went to Alberta Environment Minister Rob Renner. They accused Dr. McEachern of making “false and defamatory statements” through his stated or implied comments, which suggested their figures amounted to a “lie” and that they “chose to remove data” from their study.

A lawsuit could be avoided, the letter said, if Dr. McEachern provided a letter “unequivocally retracting and apologizing,” the slides were removed from CAPP’s website and elsewhere, legal expenses were paid and Dr. McEachern refrained from repeating the allegations.

Dr. Timoney and Mr. Lee received a letter of apology on June 11 – the deadline set by their lawyers – and it was released by Greenpeace and the Pembina Institute on Monday.

“The statements in my presentation … were false and I regret very much that I made these statements. I unequivocally retract them,” Dr. McEachern wrote.

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