Committee on Science, Space, and Technology

Lamar Smith

Did EPA Destroy Federal Records?

2015/03/26

Washington, D.C. Today, the Subcommittees on Oversight and Environment held a hearing to clarify when the Federal Records Act applies to certain information and how it has been implemented at the Environment Protection Agency (EPA). In particular, the hearing reviewed safeguards to prevent both the inadvertent as well as intentional destruction of information that should be preserved as a federal record.

Yesterday, following months of unfulfilled requests for information about EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy deleting thousands of text messages from her work phone, Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) authorized a subpoena. The subpoena compels the EPA to provide all documents related to the agency’s preservation of text messages and other electronic communications, as required by the Federal Records Act.

Chairman Smith: “What is clear is that this administration has failed to meet its promise of being the most transparent in American history.  We have seen a disregard for agency transparency several times in recent years across the Federal Government – such as with Lois Lerner’s ‘IRS targeting controversy’ and Hillary Clinton’s ‘secret server’ issue.  This pattern of withholding, concealing and destroying records must come to an end. Americans deserve to have the facts.”

Federal records are kept for a number of reasons, including institutional memory, ensuring effective and efficient administration of an organization, and to “make possible a proper scrutiny by the Congress…” Agencies are required to preserve records that document how decisions are made.

Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.): “Hardworking American taxpayers expect their government to operate in an ethical and transparent manner, especially agencies such as the EPA, who hold a tremendous amount of regulatory power. However, the deletion of four years’ worth of text messages causes great concern, and we must get to the bottom of why there is an obvious lack of accountability within the EPA. I commend Chairman Smith for using the committee’s subpoena power to compel the EPA to comply with our investigation, on behalf of the American people.”

Environment Subcommittee Chairman Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.): “The EPA seems to believe it should be able to operate without oversight.  Just last week, this Committee helped usher through the House two bills that would simply require greater transparency and more balanced and public input into EPA’s rulemaking processes.  Unfortunately, the President has threatened to veto both bills. EPA’s refusal to turn over records and documents is yet another example of the lack of accountability and transparency that has become a hallmark of this agency in its dealings with Congress.”

Today’s hearing follows other recent concerns surrounding the agency’s lack of transparency. On March 2, 2015, a federal court issued an opinion raising concerns about the agency’s process for responding to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. According to news reports, a federal judge called the EPA’s handling of a 2012 FOIA request “suspicious.”  The court found that “the agency either intentionally sought to evade the FOIA request in order to destroy documents or demonstrated extreme apathy and carelessness.”

Last year, a federal judge held the EPA in contempt for disregarding a court order not to destroy records. In that case, former EPA Administrator Carol Browner asked an employee to delete all her as well as other senior officials’ computer files as a new Administration was about to take over. Her excuse was that she wanted to have some “games” removed from her computer.

Not long after the contempt finding, reports surfaced that former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson created a secret email account under the pseudonym “Richard Windsor” in an apparent attempt to conceal emails. 

Further, a report by the Center for Effective Government, Making the Grade: Access to Information Scorecard, recently gave the EPA a “D” in information access.

For more information on today’s hearing, including witness testimony and a link to the archived webcast, visit the Science, Space, and Technology Committee website.

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Joint Subcommittee on Oversight and Subcommittee on Environment Hearing - Destruction of Records at EPA – When Records Must Be Kept

2015/03/26

Destruction of Records at EPA – When Records Must Be Kept

Hearing Charter

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Smith Subpoenas EPA for Info on Thousands of Deleted Text Messages

2015/03/25

Hearing tomorrow to examine unlawful destruction of EPA records

Washington, D.C. Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) today authorized a subpoena to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) compelling them to provide all documents related to the agency’s preservation of text messages and other electronic communications, as required by the Federal Records Act.

Smith’s subpoena follows several other Committee requests, including a letter to the EPA Office of Inspector General on November 10, 2014, and a letter to the EPA on January 27, 2015, requesting all e-mails and text messages from agency officials. On February 26, 2015, the EPA provided information to the Committee that failed to include several documents responsive to the Committee’s request, including any text messages or agency policy and procedures for the period of 2009-2012. On March 6, 2015, the Committee sent a second letter reiterating its previous request for a complete response. The EPA has failed to turn over these documents. 

According to the EPA, Administrator McCarthy received only one text message that qualifies as a federal record during her tenure at EPA. Coincidentally, that one text message was preserved nine days after receiving the Committee’s January 27, 2015 letter. The text, from Gene Karpinski, President of the League of Conservation Voters, stated:

“[g]reat job on the EPA comments on keystone.  I feel like the end is very near….”

The EPA and the League of Conservation Voters have often worked toward similar goals, including pushing for Administrator McCarthy’s Senate confirmation and efforts to block the Keystone XL pipeline.

Chairman Smith: “Of the almost 6,000 text messages sent by Administrator McCarthy over a period of several years, it is difficult to believe that only one was related to EPA business. The single text message produced by EPA was received at the start of this year, within days of receiving a letter of inquiry from this Committee. The EPA’s pattern of withholding, concealing and possibly destroying records must come to an end.  The American people deserve an open and honest government.

“Because EPA has refused to provide a complete production of records in response to the Committee’s repeated requests, I am left with no alternative but to issue a subpoena to compel EPA to produce unredacted cellular phone billing records and e-mails relevant to the Committee’s oversight.”

Additionally, tomorrow at 10:00 a.m., the Subcommittees on Oversight and Environment will hold a hearing titled, Destruction of Records at EPA – When Records Must Be Kept. The hearing will clarify when the Federal Records Act applies to certain information and how it has been implemented at the EPA.

The hearing and subpoena follow other recent concerns surrounding the agency’s lack of transparency. On March 2, 2015, a federal court issued an opinion raising concerns about the agency’s process for responding to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. According to news reports, a federal judge called the EPA’s handling of a 2012 FOIA request “suspicious.”  The court found that “the agency either intentionally sought to evade the FOIA request in order to destroy documents or demonstrated extreme apathy and carelessness.” Further, a report by the Center for Effective Government, Making the Grade: Access to Information Scorecard, recently gave the EPA a “D” in information access.

The cover letter to the subpoena can be found here.

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Smith Letter to EPA Administrator McCarthy on Subpoena of Deleted Text Messages

2015/03/25

The letter can be found HERE.

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Committee Passes Bipartisan Bill to Improve Weather Forecasting

2015/03/25

Washington, D.C. – The Science, Space, and Technology Committee today passed the Weather Research and Forecast Innovation Act of 2015 (H.R. 1561), introduced by Vice-Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) and Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.) and cosponsored by Environment Subcommittee Chairman Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.). The bipartisan bill improves America’s severe weather forecasting capabilities by prioritizing the protection of lives and property through a forward-looking weather research plan at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Vice-Chairman Lucas: “Severe weather routinely affects large portions of the United States, and as a representative from Oklahoma, I understand the need for improvement first hand. The United States needs a world-class weather prediction system that helps protect the American people and their property.  Unfortunately, for the last few years, our leadership in weather forecasting has slipped and we now play second fiddle to the European forecasting offices, who often predict America’s weather better than we can.  The bill before us today will help us reclaim superior weather prediction and forecasting capabilities. Our citizens deserve this.”

The Weather Research and Forecast Innovation Act of 2015  protects lives and property through improved weather research to better forecast tornadoes and hurricanes and to increase warning lead times. The bill encourages NOAA to actively consider new commercial data and private sector weather solutions.  It also aims to speed technologies developed through NOAA’s weather research into operation. The bill expands commercial opportunities by clarifying that NOAA can purchase weather data from companies. The bill also requires the Commerce secretary to draft a strategy to enable the procurement of commercial weather data from the private sector and to enter into a pilot project.

Environment Subcommittee Chairman Bridenstine: “The Weather Forecasting Innovation and Research Act is an important step toward moving to a day when we have zero deaths from severe weather events, such as tornadoes which can be devastating in my home state of Oklahoma. By prioritizing funding within NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, we can advance critical technologies and capabilities to vastly improve weather forecasting in the United States and save lives and property. Additionally, I am particularly proud of the inclusion of a pilot program for purchasing and testing commercial satellite weather data in this bill. There are several technologies and data sets that private industry can provide for NOAA, and this program will serve as a signal from Congress and NOAA that this information is needed and wanted.”

The bipartisan legislation was approved today by voice vote. For additional information on the markup, including a link to the archived webcast, please visit the Science, Space, and Technology Committee website

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Full Committee Markup - The Weather Research and Forecast Innovation Act of 2015

2015/03/25

The Committee will meet to consider the following measure, or for other purposes:

H.R.1561, the Weather Research and Forecast Innovation Act of 2015, Approved by voice vote.

Amendment 01 offered by Mr. Grayson (D-FL.), Approved by voice vote.

Amendment 02 offered by Mr. Beyer (D-FL.), Approved by voice vote.

Amendment 03 offered by Ms. Bonamici (D-OR.), Withdrawn.

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Subcommittee Scrutinizes Green Energy Spending

2015/03/24

Washington, D.C. The Subcommittee on Energy today held a hearing to review the Department of Energy’s (DOE) $2.72 billion budget request for fiscal year 2016 for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), including technology research, development, demonstration, and commercialization activities.

Energy Subcommittee Chairman Randy Weber (R-Texas): “It is clear that EERE’s budget is simply unaffordable.  While every other federal program has had to adjust to spending caps and work within modest spending goals, EERE’s budget has continued to increase.  EERE’s budget dwarfs that of the other applied offices at DOE. It’s time to adjust EERE’s budget to reality.” 

EERE’s budget has grown by 58% in the last decade and received over $16 billion in stimulus funding. The $2.7 billion budget request for fiscal year 2016 is more than double the budgets for nuclear, fossil, and electricity research and development (R&D) combined. 

Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas): “In Congress, we have the responsibility to ensure the efficient and effective use of American tax dollars. We can’t afford to impose expensive and inefficient technology on the energy market. When the government picks winners and losers in the energy technology marketplace, the American people pay the price. By investing in basic research that benefits all forms of energy, we can make energy less expensive, and that benefits consumers and helps the U.S. achieve energy independence.”

Witnesses today discussed how EERE is too focused on increasing the use of today’s technology, not conducting the fundamental research to lay the foundation for the next technology breakthrough. 

Many EERE programs are focused on reducing market barriers for existing technology or funding R&D activities already prioritized by the private sector. Instead of duplicating work that could be done in the private sector, several witnesses encouraged DOE to prioritize basic research and development with broad application to all forms of energy, and energy efficiency. 

The following witnesses testified today:

The Honorable David Danielson, Assistant Secretary, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, U.S. Department of Energy

Mr. Nick Loris, Herbert and Joyce Morgan Fellow, Heritage Foundation

Ms. Ruth McCormick, Director of Federal and State Affairs, Business Council for Sustainable Energy (BCSE)

Dr. Veronique de Rugy, Senior Research Fellow, Mercatus Center, George Mason University

For additional information about today’s hearing, including witness testimony and the archived webcast, visit the Science, Space, and Technology Committee website

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Subcommittee on Energy Hearing - Department of Energy Oversight: Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

2015/03/24

Department of Energy Oversight: Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

Hearing Charter 

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Subcommittee on Space Hearing - Searching for the Origins of the Universe: An Update on the Progress of the James Webb Space Telescope

2015/03/24

Searching for the Origins of the Universe: An Update on the Progress of the James Webb Space Telescope

Hearing Charter 

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Smith: Fracking Rule is Solution in Search of Problem

2015/03/20

Washington D.C. - Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) today released the following statement in response to new regulations by the Obama administration that would target U.S. natural gas development on public lands.

Chairman Smith: “As Republicans work to increase our nation’s energy potential, the Obama administration continues to do the opposite. We all want to continue safe and responsible production of oil and natural gas. But this administration’s track record on hydraulic fracturing provides cause for concern. A widely publicized handful of fabricated charges that fracking pollutes ground water has led some to question the safety of this practice. Scientific experts and top Obama administration officials have unanimously testified before the House Science Committee that hydraulic fracturing has never contaminated drinking water. States have effectively regulated this technology for years and understand the local conditions and geology far better than any lawyer in Washington ever could. These new regulations are a solution in search of a problem.” 

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Contact Information

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Washington, DC 20515
Phone 202-225-6371
Fax 202-226-0113
science.house.gov


Membership

Brian Babin

TEXAS' 36th DISTRICT

Jim Bridenstine

OKLAHOMA's 1st DISTRICT

Mo Brooks

ALABAMA's 5th DISTRICT

Barbara Comstock

VIRGINIA's 10th DISTRICT

Randy Hultgren

ILLINOIS' 14th DISTRICT

Bill Johnson

OHIO's 6th DISTRICT

Steve Knight

CALIFORNIA's 25th DISTRICT

Barry Loudermilk

GEORGIA's 11th DISTRICT

Frank Lucas

OKLAHOMA's 3rd DISTRICT

Thomas Massie

KENTUCKY's 4th DISTRICT

Michael McCaul

TEXAS' 10th DISTRICT

John Moolenaar

MICHIGAN's 4th DISTRICT

Randy Neugebauer

TEXAS' 19th DISTRICT

Dan Newhouse

WASHINGTON's 4th DISTRICT

Steven Palazzo

MISSISSIPPI's 4th DISTRICT

Gary Palmer

ALABAMA's 6th DISTRICT

Bill Posey

FLORIDA's 8th DISTRICT

Dana Rohrabacher

CALIFORNIA's 48th DISTRICT

Jim Sensenbrenner

WISCONSIN's 5th DISTRICT

Lamar Smith

TEXAS' 21st DISTRICT

Randy Weber

TEXAS' 14th DISTRICT

Bruce Westerman

ARKANSAS' 4th DISTRICT