A new congressional investigation has determined that the Obama administration fired a top scientist and intimidated staff at the Department of Energy in order to further its climate change agenda, according to a new report that alleges the administration ordered top officials to obstruct Congress in order to forward this agenda.
Rep. Lamar Smith (R., Texas), chair of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, released a wide-ranging report on Tuesday that shows how senior Obama administration officials retaliated against a leading scientist and plotted ways to block a congressional inquiry surrounding key research into the impact of radiation.
A top DoE scientist who liaised with Congress on the matter was fired by the Obama administration for being too forthright with lawmakers, according to the report, which provides an in-depth look at the White House's efforts to ensure senior staffers toe the administration's line.
The report also provides evidence that the Obama administration worked to kill legislation in order to ensure that it could receive full funding for its own hotly contested climate change agenda.
The report additionally discovered efforts by the Obama administration to censor the information given to Congress, interfering with the body's ability to perform critical oversight work.
"Instead of providing the type of scientific information needed by Congress to legislate effectively, senior departmental officials sought to hide information, lobbied against legislation, and retaliated against a scientist for being forthcoming," Smith said in a statement. "In this staff report based on lengthy record before the committee, much has been revealed about how senior level agency officials under the Obama administration retaliated against a scientist who did not follow the party line."
"Moving forward, the department needs to overhaul its management practices to ensure that Congress is provided the information it requires to legislate and that federal employees and scientists who provide that information do so without fear of retribution," Smith said.
The report goes into Congress' efforts to regulate the Low Dose Radiation Research Program, or LDRRP, which sought to test the impact of radiation on human beings. The program, started in the 1990s, was meant to support research into waste cleanup and the impact of nuclear weapons.
In mid-2014, lawmakers introduced legislation, the Low Dose Radiation Act of 2014, to help regulate the program and minimize harmful side effects.
During an October 2014 briefing with senior DoE staff on the matter, lawmakers heard testimony from Dr. Noelle Metting, the radiation research program's manager.
Less than a month later, lawmakers discovered that Obama administration officials had "removed Dr. Metting from federal service for allegedly providing too much information in response to questions posed by" Congress during the briefing, the report states.
Congressional investigators later determined that the administration's "actions to remove Dr. Metting were, in part, retaliation against Dr. Metting because she refused to conform to the predetermined remarks and talking points designed by Management to undermine the advancement of" the 2014 radiation act.
Emails unearthed during the investigation "show a sequence of events leading to a premeditated scheme by senior DoE employees 'to squash the prospects of Senate support'" for the radiation act, a move that lawmakers claim was meant to help advance President Obama's own climate change goals.
"The committee has learned that one of DoE's stated purposes for Dr. Metting's removal from federal service was her failure to confine the discussion at the briefing to pre-approved talking points," according to the report. "The committee has also established that DoE management … failed to exercise even a minimal standard of care to avoid chilling other agency scientists as a result of the retaliation against Dr. Metting for her refusal to censor information from Congress."
The investigation concluded that "DoE placed its own priorities to further the president's Climate Action Plan before its constitutional obligations to be candid with Congress," the report states. "The DoE's actions constitute a reckless and calculated attack on the legislative process itself, which undermines the power of Congress to legislate. The committee further concludes that DoE's disregard for separation of powers is not limited to a small group of employees, but rather is an institutional problem that must be corrected by overhauling its management practices with respect to its relationship with the Congress."
These moves by the administration were part of an effort to secure full funding for the president's climate change agenda, the report claims.
"Instead of working to understand the value of the LDRRP for emergency situations, DoE Management engaged in a campaign to terminate research programs that could divert funds from the president's Climate Action Plan," the report states.
Congress is recommending a full overhaul of the DoE's management structure in order to ensure this type of situation does not occur again.