Senator Boxer Calls on NRC to Withdraw Controversial Policy that Enables NRC to Withhold Information from Committee Chairs and Ranking Members
November 26, 2013

Washington, D.C. - Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, today wrote to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) about a controversial new policy on providing information to Congress. The revised policy creates substantial hurdles and delays that interfere with congressional oversight of the agency.  In a letter to the NRC Chairman, Allison Macfarlane, Senator Boxer calls on the agency to withdraw the policy and instead implement a process that fully supports Congress' oversight responsibilities.

The full text of the letter is below:

November 26, 2013


The Honorable Allison M. Macfarlane
Chairman
Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Rockville, MD 20852

Dear Chairman Macfarlane:

As Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW), which has the duty and authority to oversee the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), I am deeply concerned about the controversial and obstructive new policy that NRC has designed in order to justify withholding information from Members of Congress.

The United States Constitution gives Congress broad authority over Executive Branch agencies like the NRC. As an "independent agency," the NRC is independent from the Executive Branch - not from Congressional oversight. It is the NRC's responsibility to keep Congress apprised of its activities, as well as to follow the law and use its authorities responsibly and in the public's interest.

Despite these responsibilities, the NRC unilaterally devised a drastic change of policy behind closed doors, failed to notify the EPW Committee about this far-reaching proposal, and then unilaterally implemented this harmful policy without consulting Congress or the public.

This policy is a radical departure from previous NRC document policies and creates significant hurdles and delays that can be used to withhold information entirely from the Chairs and Ranking Members of oversight committees. It also allows the NRC to broadly deny information to individual Members of Congress, even when the information is related to matters affecting their home states. NRC has additionally attempted to justify this new policy through claims that it needs to do so in order to protect against the public release of sensitive materials, even though these claims are not supported by either case law or Department of Justice guidance documents (Please see attached information).

It is clear that the changes to the NRC policy work against the interests of Congress and attempt to undercut constitutional oversight. I call on the NRC to cease its efforts to circumvent Congress' oversight authority and create a policy that is a model of transparency and respects Congress' responsibility to oversee the NRC.

Sincerely,

 

Barbara Boxer
Chairman





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