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WASHINGTON, DC – Today, US Senator John Barrasso, Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Oversight in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, released a report detailing the Subcommittee’s lack of oversight on a number of key Administration activities that undermine transparency and sound science. Barrasso discussed the report on the floor of the U.S. Senate while speaking about Mr. Arthur Elkins’ nomination to serve as Inspector General of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
“Mr. President, I rise today because the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will soon be meeting to discuss the nomination of Mr. Arthur Elkins to be Inspector General at the Environmental Protection Agency.
“I support Mr. Elkin’s moving out of the committee. To date he has truthfully answered the questions that I have posed to him.
“Before the full Senate vote, I do have some additional questions based on a report that I am releasing today.
“Mr. President, as Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Oversight in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, I care a great deal about ensuring oversight over the agencies within our jurisdiction, the most important of which is the EPA.
“Over the last few months, the Minority on the Subcommittee have compiled a report.
“The report is entitled ‘The Status of Oversight: A Year of Lost Oversight.’
“This report details the severe lack of oversight by the Majority on the committee and the Administration.
“When the Majority created the Subcommittee on Oversight, it was stated that they planned and I quote ‘to use the subcommittee to explore ways to restore scientific integrity at the EPA and other federal agencies focused on the environment, and to strengthen environmental protections by once again making the regulatory process more transparent.’
“Well, Mr. President, I agree.
“One year later, as my report details, there have only been two subcommittee hearings.
“As this report concludes, the result of this is that the Majority has let a year go by where they failed to pursue their stated goals.
“Over the last year Mr. President, my colleagues and I have requested a series of investigations and hearings into key matters related to whistleblowers being silenced, data being manipulated, and shadow czars holding meetings where nothing was put into writing to avoid Freedom of Information Act requests.
“We have asked for these hearings and investigations because we believe that the public needs to have trust in their government.
“At the beginning of this Administration, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson herself stated unequivocally that ‘the success of our environmental efforts depends on earning and maintaining the trust of the public we serve.’
“As this report demonstrates, this Administration and the Majority have shown little interest in pursuing these matters.
“Let me read to you the findings and recommendations of the report.
• In 2009, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Majority chose not to conduct oversight over the relevant agencies within the executive branch.
• The lack of any oversight over the activities of the federal agencies weakens the system of checks and balances, and invites the potential for larger abuses.
• Action must be taken to investigate oversight issues from the last year.
• Further coordination within the Committee regarding the oversight jurisdiction and responsibility is needed.
“Mr. President, I believe that finally having a nominee, finally receiving a nominee for Inspector General at EPA gives the public another opportunity to get to the truth about the issues raised in this report.
“In his answers to my questions to date, Mr. Elkins has signaled that he is absolutely willing to chart a new course from where this Administration and the Majority have taken us.
“When I asked: Do you believe it is the responsibility of the EPA Inspector General to investigate instances where whistleblowers are silenced by their superiors at the agency, he said yes.
“When I asked: Will you pursue those instances, he said yes.
“When I asked: Do you believe it is the responsibility of the EPA Inspector General to investigate and report instances where scientific procedures at EPA are circumvented, he said yes.
“When I asked: Will you investigate instances where agency employees are smeared publicly in the press by higher ups in the agency or in the Administration, simply for providing their best advice and counsel, he said yes.
“All of these things are not hypotheticals, Mr. President.
“They all occurred over the last year.
“My fellow colleagues and I in the minority have asked for investigations into each of these instances by the majority and this Administration.
“The response we have received each time was a resounding no.
“So Mr. President, if the Administration and the majority refuse to provide proper oversight, then someone else has to.
“That is why I plan to share this oversight report with Mr. Elkins, the nominee to be
Inspector General at the EPA.
“Before a floor vote, I will seek confirmation that he will give the matters that I raised in this report due consideration.
“I am confident, based on his responses so far, that he will answer in the affirmative.
“If so, we will have sea change at EPA that will restore the public’s confidence in that agency.”