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Committee Leaders Ask Nonpartisan GAO to Review DOE’s Environmental Cleanup Decision-Making

Mar 31, 2017

WASHINGTON, DC – House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR), Energy and Commerce Committee Vice Chairman Joe Barton (R-TX), Subcommittee on Energy Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), and Subcommittee on Environment Chairman John Shimkus (R-IL), today asked the nonpartisan U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) to assist the committee’s review of the Department of Energy’s (DOE) environmental cleanup operations and its use of modeling and assessments to ensure the most cost-effective reduction of public health risks. 

The letter comes as part of the committee’s review of DOE’s management practices. An important element of that review will be to examine DOE’s management and execution of its cleanup responsibilities. “We are particularly interested in departmental decision-making concerning DOE’s efforts to cost effectively address environmental liabilities while minimizing health and safety risks to the public and the environment – the importance of which were underscored by the GAO high-risk designation last month for federal environmental liabilities,” write Walden, Barton, Upton, and Shimkus.

The members continued, “DOE’s Office of Environmental Management (EM) is responsible for remediating the environmental contamination attributable to the nation’s nuclear weapons program. Since its inception in 1989, EM has spent more than$164 billion on this effort, and estimates that it will need approximately $257 billion to complete its mission. …  Given the enormous amount of cleanup work in the years ahead, we seek to understand whether EM is adequately assessing the performance of its cleanup projects and managing the majority of its annual budget as effectively and as efficiently as possible.”

“In light of $370 billion environmental liability for DOE’s future environmental remediation requirements, DOE may be missing opportunities to work with states to make risk-informed decisions using current information that reflect scientific and technical advancements. To assist us with these management-oversight inquiries, we request GAO undertake an evaluation of the performance of EM’s operational activities and the role of performance assessments in informing those activities,” concluded Walden, Barton, Upton, and Shimkus.

To read the letter online, click here.