Today’s hearing concerns me on several fronts. First, it was called to take a look at EPA’s Chemical program under TSCA. At least that’s what we were told as well as EPA. However, it now appears that a major part of the focus is on the changes to the IRIS program. Unfortunately, the witness the chairman invited from EPA is Assistant Administrator Gulliford, who runs the TSCA program. Assistant Administrator Grey runs the IRIS program. So, Mr. Gulliford, while you might be able to offer some general comments on the IRIS program, you should not be expected to be an expert on the program.
Next, my staff were repeatedly told by the majority staff that GAO was working on an IRIS report, but they weren’t sure if it would be ready in time. This report, in keeping with our Committee rules, was distributed on Friday. However, we now understand that not only was the report completed on March 7, but that Senator Boxer’s office requested that GAO embargo the report for 30 days. While this is occasionally done, Senator Boxer’s Deputy Staff Director went even further to request that the embargo be extended until this hearing. This is not a common practice and I have a letter from the GAO that I would like to enter into the record which discusses this.
My concern in all of this (inviting the wrong EPA witness, withholding from the minority a GAO report for more than 50 days) is that this hearing today appears to be set up as a “gotcha” hearing to try and embarrass the Administration, instead of being a legitimate oversight hearing. If the chairman were truly concerned about oversight and changing policy then she would have shared the report when it became available over a month and a half ago, and she would have invited the correct EPA witness. I understand that at one point she wanted the Administrator, but she invited the TSCA Assistant Administrator.
Oversight works best when it’s done in the open. By not disclosing the true intent of today’s hearing to the Agency and the minority, we are left with at best an incomplete and inclusive attempt at oversight.
I believe we need to work together on oversight, such as a hearing examining the ethanol program. This Committee has not held such a hearing this Congress, despite a massive change in the law last year which has increased food prices and is contributing to food riots around the world.
I will submit my statement on TSCA for the record.