House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) on Thursday accused officials at the Environmental Protection Agency, which has become increasingly powerful under the Obama administration, of blocking federal watchdogs.
EPA Inspector General Arthur Elkins and members of his staff have appeared before Congress three times since May to complain that the agency’s homeland security office is impeding investigations.
Since last year, the Inspector General has been investigating personnel issues at the EPA stemming from the revelation that EPA employee John Beale posed as a CIA agent in order to get paid time off. But the EPA has used a 10 employee homeland security division created after the 9/11 attacks to thwart government investigators.
“As the official in charge of internal investigations at EPA, I am very concerned that vital information regarding suspected employee misconduct is being withheld from the OIG,” Patrick Sullivan, who heads the Inspector General’s investigations team, told lawmakers in May.
Little had changed by September.
“The EPA office of homeland security continues to impede the investigations of this OIG,” Elkins said last month. “This impairment by the EPA … is still not resolved.”
In a letter to EPA Gina McCarthy sent Thursday, Issa said that the continued obstruction is unacceptable.
“The committee remains deeply concerned about the apparent lack of progress on any of these fronts,” Issa wrote.
“It has been three months since the hearing at which you appeared and four months since the committee first learned of these issues and urged the EPA to address them.”
This is only the latest of many battles the Oversight Committee has had with the EPA over the past year.
Last month, Issa and Louisiana Sen. David Vitter (R) launched an investigation to explore ties between the EPA and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a lobbying group active in shaping global warming rules.
The GOP lawmakers are attempting to better understand what role NRDC played in the EPA’s denial of a permit for the Pebble Mine in Alaska and a separate draft rule aimed at limiting carbon dioxide emissions from the nation’s power plants.
“It appears that NRDC’s unprecedented access to high-level EPA officials allowed it to influence EPA policy decisions and achieve its own private agenda,” Issa and Vitter wrote to the EPA and NRDC in September. “Such collusive activities provide the NRDC, and their financial backers, with an inappropriate opportunity to wield the broad powers of the executive branch.”
“The fact that an ideological and partisan group drafted a rule that places a tremendous cost on everyday Americans through increased electricity prices is harmful and outrageous,” the two continued. “Accordingly, these practices must cease immediately.”