The Subcommittee on Oversight today held its second in a series of hearings to review challenges facing the nation's science agencies, as the Committee prepares to review the Administration's FY 2014 budget request. Agency Inspectors General (IG) testified today on performance and management challenges facing the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI).
Subcommittee Chairman Paul Broun M.D. (R-Georgia) questioned the DOE IG on a report the IG issued last month on the company LG Chem. "This Michigan company received nearly $150 million dollars in Recovery Act funds. Yet, not only did the company fail to meet basic project goals, its employees actually got paid for watching movies and playing board games. These are serious concerns about serious amounts of taxpayer money that require this Committee's attention."
As for the EPA, members asked about the EPA IG review of alias email accounts, including former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson's "Richard Windsor" account. Chairman Broun also asked about EPA's draft Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment, which he and full Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) recently questioned in a letter to the agency. "EPA has not provided clear answers about the purpose, cost, or relevance of an assessment that is based on a hypothetical mining plan. Concerns have been raised about this assessment, prompting one peer reviewer to describe it as "hogwash.'" Chairman Broun said.
Members questioned the DOI IG on how the Department incorporates science into decisions. "Because of the Department's track record, an uncertain process for handling allegations between the IG and the Agency, and questions about the IG's independence, I see scientific integrity as a fundamental challenge facing the Agency moving forward," Chairman Broun said. "This challenge affects the use of federal lands, Endangered Species Act listings that influence property owners, and countless other important national interests tied to resources and wildlife."
DOI has been involved in scientific integrity cases involving: polar bear research; the Klamath River dam removal decision; the Delta Smelt issue regarding California's Central Valley water; the manipulation of peer reviewers' comments to justify an offshore drilling moratorium; and the treatment of science in deciding to extend the operating agreement for an oyster company on a National Seashore.
The following witnesses testified:
Mr. Gregory H. Friedman, Inspector General, U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Inspector General;
Mr. Arthur A. Elkins, Jr., Inspector General, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Inspector General;
Ms. Mary L. Kendall, Deputy Inspector General, U.S. Department of the Interior, Office of Inspector General.