Bureaucratic accountability

Morgan Griffith
Report from Washington

When will Washington bureaucrats who do wrong be held accountable?
We all know of the investigation into Lois Lerner, the former director of the Internal Revenue Services’ (IRS) Exempt Organizations Division who was at the center of the IRS targeting scandal where she appeared to have been involved in targeting political groups for ideological reasons, delaying or denying tax-exempt status they would otherwise have been entitled to. This investigation was closed with no charges.
Additionally, no one has been held accountable for the Solyndra solar corporation whose loans were subordinated illegally in my opinion. This was the process by which private financiers/investors were placed ahead of the taxpayers for repayment should Solyndra go bankrupt, which it did. This scheme cost the taxpayers $170 million (see my press release of March 8, 2012).
More recently, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials have not been held accountable for their failures relating to the water crisis in Flint, Mich., that exposed the city’s 95,000 citizens to lead, which is particularly harmful to young children and their developing brains and nervous systems. Accordingly, the nearly 9,000 children below six years old exposed in Flint are at risk of permanent disabilities, behavioral issues, and various diseases.
Miguel Del Toral, a water scientist with the EPA, first confirmed water problems in Flint last spring after Flint resident Lee Anne Walters called the EPA regarding high lead levels in her tap water. Walters also warned officials that one of her children had been diagnosed with lead poisoning. However, after Del Toral noted the lack of corrosion controls and high lead levels in an interim report, he indicated that he was being punished.
In an email dated July 8, 2015, Del Toral wrote, “It almost sounds like I’m to be stuck in a corner holding up a potted plant because of Flint. One misstep in 27+ years here and people lose their minds.”
Susan Hedman is the former head of the agency’s Midwest region. She resigned shortly after the crisis in Flint was revealed to the public. Last week, she testified before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee about this situation.
At the hearing, Hedman refused to acknowledge any wrongdoing by EPA in this situation, though she did say that officials “could have done more.” Further, in another hearing, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy refused to say whether she would have removed Hedman had she not resigned.
Also testifying with Hedman was Dr. Marc Edwards, whose work with a group of 25 Virginia Tech researchers was vital in exposing this crisis. As summarized in the Washington Post, Edwards called Heldman’s remarks “completely unacceptable and criminal” and said Hedman “…was guilty of ‘willful blindness,’ was ‘unremorseful’ and was ‘completely unrepentant and unable to learn from [her] mistakes.’”
“I guess being a government agency means you never have to say you’re sorry,” he said. Wow.
In Congress, I have been working to hold agencies accountable when they do something harmful or are way off base. This fight will continue. Administration bureaucrats must be held accountable.
Supporters of the Ivanpah solar plant promised it would provide high-tech clean energy. The Wall Street Journal reports that despite the more than 2,000 birds that died at the facility between March and August of 2015 likely when flying through intense heat surrounding its towers, the “…federally backed, $2.2 billion solar project in the California desert isn’t producing the electricity it is contractually required to deliver to PG&E Corp., which says the solar plant may be forced to shut down if it doesn’t receive a break Thursday from state regulators.”
The California Public Utilities Commission last week did approve forbearance agreements allowing up to a year for Ivanpah to meet expectations of electric output. Also, an undisclosed sum was paid to the electric utility PG&E so it would not declare its power purchase agreement with the plant owners is in default.
I discussed this plant and its bird issue in a 2014 special report. As I listed then, this plant had killed birds that were federally protected. Not only is it roasting birds, but Ivanpah is failing to produce the electricity it promised.
While we are looking for cleaner energy alternatives including clean coal technologies, we ought not abandon energy sources that keep their promises and provide us with electricity until the new energies are no longer all hat and no cattle.
If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office. You can call my Abingdon office at (276) 525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at (540) 381-5671. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at www.morgangriffith.house.gov. Also on my website is the latest material from my office, including information on votes recently taken on the floor of the House of Representatives.


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