Whitehouse Leads Senators in Defending EPA Watchdog
Slashing funding would hamper the EPA Inspector General’s vital work
Washington, DC – Ten Senators led by Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) are calling for Senate appropriators to protect funding for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) in-house watchdog, which helps to ensure the agency carries out its function of protecting public health and the environment. The Senators ask leaders of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies in a letter to maintain current funding levels for the EPA Office of Inspector General. The President’s budget request would slash the Inspector General’s budget by 10 percent and reduce its staffing by roughly 25 percent. House and Senate appropriations bills would cut funding by 4 percent.
“The EPA OIG plays a critical role promoting EPA’s core mission of fighting pollution and ensuring that agency officials adhere to ethical standards and that taxpayer dollars are spent wisely,” the Senators write. “We urge the Subcommittee to avoid reducing the appropriated funds for the EPA OIG and support adequate funding for the office. Such funding will allow this crucial office to do its job protecting taxpayer dollars and our environment.”
Joining Whitehouse in signing the letter are Senators Jeffrey Merkley (D-OR), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Tom Carper (D-DE), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).
The EPA Inspector General, Arthur Elkins, is engaged in important investigations of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. In August, Elkins began looking into whether Pruitt violated agency policies and procedures with his frequent, costly travel to his home state of Oklahoma. On Wednesday, Elkins confirmed that he is reviewing Pruitt’s meeting in April with the National Mining Association. During the meeting, Pruitt reportedly urged the group to tell the President to pull out of the Paris climate accord, which may be a violation of federal lobbying laws.
Text of the Senators’ letter is below. A PDF copy is available here.
December 6, 2017
The Honorable Lisa Murkowski The Honorable Tom Udall
Chairman Ranking Member
Subcommittee on the Interior, Subcommittee on the Interior,
Environment, and Related Agencies Environment, and Related Agencies
Senate Committee on Appropriations Senate Committee on Appropriations
131 Dirksen Senate Office Building 125 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510 Washington, D.C. 20510
Dear Chairman Murkowski and Ranking Member Udall,
As the Subcommittee finalizes the Fiscal Year 2018 funding for the agencies in its purview, we urge you to support adequate funding for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Inspector General (OIG). FY18 funding for the EPA OIG should be no less than the funding the office received in FY17, adjusted for inflation.
The EPA OIG plays a critical role promoting EPA’s core mission of fighting pollution and ensuring that agency officials adhere to ethical standards and that taxpayer dollars are spent wisely. Since the beginning of the year, the EPA OIG has begun working on at least 41 audits, evaluations, reviews, and other oversight actions, on topics including EPA’s efforts to protect children from asbestos exposure in schools, whether drinking water agencies notify the public when there are contamination risks, chemical data reporting under the Toxic Substance Control Act, and an audit of Administrator Pruitt’s travel expenses. In 2018, the EPA OIG plans, among other things, a review of the threats directed at the agency and its staff, which is timely given the reported increase in the number of EPA security officers assigned to Administrator Pruitt.
The Senate Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies appropriations bill would reduce EPA OIG funding by four percent, as would the relevant House appropriations bill. While this is an improvement over the President’s requested budget, which would cut funding for the EPA OIG by almost 10 percent and reduce OIG staffing by approximately 25 percent, it is still not adequate to ensure that OIG will be able to effectively perform its important mission.
We urge the Subcommittee to avoid reducing the appropriated funds for the EPA OIG and support adequate funding for the office. Such funding will allow this crucial office to do its job protecting taxpayer dollars and our environment.
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