Inside EPA: Rejecting GOP Call, Senator Punts EPA Oversight Until IG Nominee Installed
March 12, 2010
Posted by: David Lungren David_Lungren@epw.senate.gov
Rejecting GOP Call, Senator Punts EPA Oversight Until IG Nominee Installed
Thursday, March 11, 2010
By: Anthony Lacey & Aaron Lovell
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), chair of the Senate environment committee's oversight panel, is rejecting calls from Republicans to conduct oversight of EPA and instead appears to be punting oversight to the Obama administration, suggesting that senators have the agency's Inspector General (IG) nominee -- once he is confirmed -- conduct a broad investigation to inform the panel's work.
In response to criticisms in a report from Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) that Whitehouse has ignored his multiple requests for oversight subcommittee hearings on EPA scientific integrity, climate science and other issues, Whitehouse sent a March 9 letter saying he agrees with Barrasso that the panel was formed in part to "help restore scientific integrity at the EPA, to strengthen environmental protections, and to make the regulatory process more transparent."
But Whitehouse says, "I am sure you will agree that the best way to address these issues is to quickly confirm" Arthur Elkins, President Obama's nominee to be EPA's IG. The post has lacked a Senate-confirmed nominee since the last Senate-confirmed IG Nikki Tinsley resigned from the Bush EPA in January 2006, leaving Bill Roderick as acting agency IG.
The agency's IG office "needs a leader with the confidence of the President and Congress behind him or her, to exercise the clout and independence necessary to undertake difficult, and at times controversial, investigations into the agency's performance," according to Whitehouse's letter.
If the Senate quickly confirms Elkins, Whitehouse says that he and Barrasso could then request that the IG's office conduct an investigation of scientific integrity, transparency, and whistleblower protection at EPA since Tinsley left the agency. This investigation "will provide us with a complete record of EPA's performance on these issues since EPA last had an Inspector General, and help us continue with our active efforts in the Oversight Subcommittee to monitor these important topics," according to Whitehouse's response.
Barrasso -- who has said that he supports Elkins' nomination -- said in reply to Whitehouse' letter, "The subcommittee should be focused on agencies and officials who can influence policy today."