Members Focus on Transparency, Requesting Agency Provide More Open Information for the American People
WASHINGTON, DC – The Energy and Commerce Committee Subcommittees on Energy and Power and Environment and the Economy today held a joint hearing to review the Environmental Protection Agency’s Fiscal Year 2014 budget request. Members questioned EPA Acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe on a range of issues before the agency, including pending rulemakings and regulatory activities and transparency issues. Perciasepe agreed to work with the committee to address many of the concerns raised by the members.
“While $8.153 billion dollars may seem like a small part of the Obama administration’s massive overall budget proposal, my concern is not only over the expenditures themselves but also with what the agency intends to do with the money. The Obama administration’s EPA has demonstrated an ability to take each tax dollar given to it and return to the American people many more dollars in unnecessary regulatory costs,” said Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-KY).
“We very much want to know what the agency is doing in its core, statutorily authorized programs; whether it is sticking to congressional intent; and whether hard working Americans’ tax dollars are being used to appropriately, effectively, and efficiently protect against significant risks to human health and the environment, based on the best available and valid science, and that these laws are enforced fairly and effectively,” added Environment and the Economy Subcommittee Chairman John Shimkus (R-IL).
The committee launched a Twitter initiative earlier in the week, #AskEPA, providing Americans the opportunity to interact with members and submit questions to Acting Administrator Perciasepe. Many twitter followers voiced concerns about a new report that suggests EPA may be making it difficult for some conservative groups to get access to public records of the agency. The report provides specific information suggesting that EPA is more likely to waive public record fees for environmental organizations than for conservative groups. Chairman Emeritus Joe Barton (R-TX) presented these concerns at today’s hearing. Perciasepe responded that he is working with the EPA Inspector General to conduct a “programmatic audit” of FOIA fee waiver decisions. Watch their exchange here:
Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA) asked Perciasepe about “sue and settle” concerns related to EPA’s rulemaking settlements and what the agency is doing to improve transparency of the process and provide more information to the public and stakeholders. Perciasepe committed to posting petitions for rulemakings on the agency’s website, something committee members have previously requested. Griffith stated, “I believe that, as we go forward, being more transparent and involving all the affected stakeholders in the process will ensure that the EPA does not commit to unrealistic deadlines.”
Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH) pressed Perciasepe on the need for EPA to look at the economy-wide impacts of regulations, including evaluating impacts that may affect more than just directly regulated sectors, due to the price effects and other costs that ripple through the economy Watch their exchange here.