2013 Year End Review: The Hearings That Didn't Happen
December 13, 2013
In 2013, U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works
Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) canceled a number of hearings that
were crucial to the oversight work of the Committee. Below is a timeline and
summation of each hearing that did not happen and what has not been
Refusing Federal Witnesses for Climate Change
In June, the President announced a Climate Action Plan (CAP) in which he committed
to a "coordinated assault on a changing climate." In his speech, he highlighted
a mere fraction of the federal actions being taken unilaterally by his
Administration to address climate change.
Oversight of the President's
CAP falls under the jurisdiction of this Committee and is crucial, as it has
every area of the federal government working towards its goal of justifying a
carbon-constrained economy. Many of these sweeping new Agency actions have not
come under appropriate scrutiny by EPW, including the Social Cost of Carbon and the New Source Performance Standards.
Prior to this hearing, Sen. Vitter and EPW
Republicans sent separate letters to both Senator Boxer and President Obama,
echoing the same message: don't exclude federal witnesses who would be able to
Since then, Chairman Boxer has
not scheduled or held a hearing on climate change that includes federal
The U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) submitted its FY14 budget proposal to Congress on April
10, 2013. It is a basic oversight function of the EPW Committee to hold a
budget hearing, but Chairman Boxer failed to fulfill her duties. Nearly every
Congressional committee of jurisdiction already held their respective hearings
on EPA's 2014 Budget.
In the months since
Administrator McCarthy's confirmation, Chairman Boxer has still not scheduled
or held a budget hearing. On September 24, the EPW Republicans urged Chairman Boxer in a
letter to set a date
in light of the recent fraud at EPA, in which a former senior official stole
This is the first year during
Chairman Boxer's tenure with the Committee that she has not held a full
committee EPA budget hearing.
Nuking Oversight of the Nuclear Regulatory
On November 21, 2013, the EPW
Committee was scheduled to hold a Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Oversight
hearing focused on the implementation of the Fukushima Near-Term Task Force
Earlier this year, Chairman Boxer focused her efforts in demanding that NRC
Chairman Allisson MacFarlane turn over an estimated 70,000 documents related to
the San Onofre Nuclear Generation Station in California before she would allow
MacFarlane's nomination to be released from the Committee. Days before the
nomination deadline, once Chairman Boxer received the documents, she quickly
pushed through a vote.
Ironically, Chairman Boxer
canceled the November hearing after it had already started so she could cast a vote in favor of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's
"nuclear option" to limit the Senate's filibuster rules during the nomination
As of today, the NRC oversight
hearing has not been rescheduled.
Ignoring Fraud and Mismanagement within the EPA
From the moment EPW Republican
staff was made aware of the fraud committed by former senior EPA official, John
C. Beale, Sen. Vitter has made it a
priority to pursue a
thorough investigation of the circumstances at EPA, which allowed Beale to
commit his fraud for so many years. Beale pled guilty to criminal charges for
stealing nearly $900,000 of taxpayer funds. During the course of the EPA Office
of Inspector General investigation, requested by Sen. Vitter, Beale's fraudulent
activities were found to include falsely claiming to be a CIA agent and having
illnesses to justify premium seats on flights and handicapped parking.
Beale's ability to defraud the
Agency for over 20 years, combined with the absurdity of his claims,
demonstrates serious problems with EPA's ability to implement sound hiring
practices, to track its employees time and attendance, to limit travel expenses
to only those that are necessary and reasonable, and to ensure that employees
are taking home only the dollars that they earn. As such, Sen. Vitter has
requested Chairwoman Boxer hold hearings on the matter.
Despite several requests for a hearing on the Beale case, Chairman
Boxer opted to schedule a narrow briefing - not a hearing - with EPA's IG that
was limited to the IG's preliminary investigation of Beale on September 30,
2013. At the briefing, Chairman Boxer assured Sen. Vitter that she received his letter and said she was
committed to having
a full Committee hearing with EPA witnesses, including former EPA officials
that worked with Beale.
Nearly four months after
Beale's fraud was exposed, the Committee has failed to fulfill its proper
oversight authority and hold a hearing.
EPW Republicans will be sending out additional
documents recapping the committee's work during 2013 on various issues. Stay
tuned for more in the coming days and weeks.