U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works
U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works
Hearing Statements
Date:   09/13/2006
Statement of Senator Joseph I. Lieberman
Consider Pending Nominations

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I would like to speak briefly about the nomination of Mr. Alex Beehler to the post of inspector general at the Environmental Protection Agency.

According to the Inspector General Act, one of the duties of EPA’s inspector general is to keep the agency’s administrator and the Congress fully informed of any serious deficiencies in EPA’s administration of the programs for which it is responsible. So that the inspector general might discharge that duty, the Act gives him tools that even this Committee often is denied in practice, namely, unimpeded access to all of the agency’s records as well as to EPA’s administrator and other employees.

The public and the Congress rely upon EPA’s inspector general to employ these powerful tools, and to disclose any serious agency shortcomings that they reveal. If he does not, then critical problems will remain under wraps, and EPA, the nation’s primary protector of public health and the environment, will fail to exhibit the effectiveness that the American people deserve. In his current position as the head of the Defense Department’s office for safety, occupational health, and the environment, Mr. Beehler has fought to win exemptions for the Department from federal anti-pollution statutes, and he has participated in the Pentagon’s effort to induce EPA to weaken and delay national health-based standards for the carcinogenic solvent, trichloroethylene. With Mr. Beehler’s assistance, the Defense Department has enjoyed some success on these fronts.

Under the current administration, some political appointees within EPA have supported, to varying degrees, the Pentagon’s resistance to the public-health protections that EPA administers. I am concerned that if this collaboration gives rise to deficiencies in EPA’s administration of those protections, Mr. Beehler might, owing to his recent professional background and institutional loyalties, be too slow as EPA inspector general to uncover and disclose the deficiencies. In other words, I am not sure I am comfortable taking a protagonist in recent bureaucratic battles against EPA’s public-health programs and making him EPA’s internal watchdog, particularly at a time when certain key program officials within EPA exhibit insufficient enthusiasm for the agency’s mission to protect public health and the environment.

That said, I honestly hope that Mr. Beehler’s responses to my questions and those of my colleagues on this Committee will alleviate my concerns. For Mr. Beehler’s record reveals that he is an experienced, highly intelligent, and diligent lawyer. I believe that if he were to marshal those strengths toward the full and faithful execution of the duties set forth in the Inspector General Act, then Mr. Beehler would make a fine EPA inspector general.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.