“Hearing on the Nominations of Robert Perciasepe to be Deputy Administrator of the EPA and Craig Hooks to be Assistant Administrator, Administration and Resources Management,
of the EPA.”
July 8, 2009 2:30 p.m.
Madam Chairman, I am pleased to join you today to review the two latest nominees for senior level positions at the Environmental Protection Agency. I congratulate them on their nomination and appreciate their commitment to public service.
Before I get to them, I have something to say about the administration they wish to join.
From the beginning of the Obama Administration, and from the first moment Administrator Lisa Jackson became head of EPA, we were told there would be “overwhelming transparency,” in the operation of that agency. We were lectured about the Bush Administration’s alleged failure to follow, “sound science.” We were told there would be a new era, with no suppression of discussion, no matter what the view is or who conveys it.
Well, last week we saw the reality behind those words. A 38-year veteran EPA employee questioned the science behind EPA’s headlong rush to regulate greenhouse gases. He was told to keep quiet about his findings, not once, but four separate times, and his work was then buried. This was back in March, at the very time we on this committee were getting straight-faced assurances that this would not occur. Worse yet, this didn’t happen with some minor administrative matter that doesn’t really make a difference—it happened with what is perhaps the most important public policy issue of our time.
In her very first memo to all EPA employees, dated January 23 of this year, Administrator Jackson emphasized, “Science must be the backbone for EPA programs.” She added, “When scientific judgments are suppressed, misrepresented or distorted by political agendas, Americans can lose faith in their government,” close quotes. Then she added the kicker: “I pledge that I will not compromise the integrity of EPA’s experts in order to advance a preference for a particular regulatory outcome.”
And in her testimony before this very committee, she has repeated those pledges.
Now, we have proof that EPA has rejected science, suppressed scientific judgment for a political agenda, and compromised the integrity of EPA’s experts for the sake of a particular regulatory outcome being pushed by the Obama Administration.
That is why last week I demanded an investigation of the suppression of the March 9 draft report on the endangerment finding for greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act. The report warned of several inconsistencies and problems with the scientific data behind the Administration’s proposed endangerment finding, and called on EPA to conduct a “serious review of the science,” before making a determination. In other words, it called on EPA to do the very things Administrator Jackson has said she is committed to doing.
There is another matter I need to raise. I have asked each of the nominees before us to commit to responding with equal vigor to the requests for information from either side of the aisle. I have been repeatedly assured this will be the case. In fact, back in April, Administrator Jackson herself issued a memo to all EPA staff directing them to provide Congress with the information we need to do our jobs. Yet in the months since this Administration took office, I have made several requests for information that have not receive fair and equal treatment. When I do get replies to my questions, they have sometimes been vague and unresponsive. I know other colleagues on this committee have had the same experience. This lack of responsiveness is a real impediment to us in fulfilling our Constitutional duties of oversight.
Now to the nominees at hand. I’ve have had a chance to speak to each of these gentlemen. I have nothing against them personally, and I wish them success in their service to our nation. I note, however, a trend I’ve pointed out before. Each of these senior level nominees either comes from or has spent the better part of his life out East.
Mr. Perciasepe has had two tours of duty at EPA, both times at Headquarters, and he has worked in or near Washington for his entire career. Mr. Hooks is also a veteran EPA headquarters staff member, although at least he got his education from schools in Florida and Texas.
I have nothing against those who choose to work in one part of the country or another. But when virtually the entire leadership of a key federal agency is from one area, in this case the Northeast, and the agency’s mission is to address national issues, it raises concerns for those of us from other regions. The nation’s environmental challenges are not one-size-fits-all. We suffer from policy decisions that do not take into account their effect on the rest of the country. I saw that time and again during my time as mayor of Tulsa, and I keep seeing it in the regulations coming out of Washington even now. It is said that personnel is policy, and if we fill senior positions with persons of one mindset, we will see policies that reflect that mindset.
Madam Chairman, I look forward to hearing the testimony today and asking a few follow-up questions. Thank you.