The Obama administration engaged in a calculated effort to dismantle an Energy Department program so it could focus on meeting the goals of the president's climate change agenda, even going as far as to fire scientists that disobeyed strict orders not to talk to members of Congress, according to a Tuesday report issued by the House Science, Space and Technology Committee.
The report showed the administration even attacked one of its own Energy Department scientists who stepped out of line with strict orders to deny lawmakers with information on a nuclear radiation program that it was seeking to scuttle to pursue its global warming programs more aggressively.
"Instead of working to understand the value of the [radiation program] for emergency situations, [Energy Department] management engaged in a campaign to terminate research programs that could divert funds from the President's Climate Action Plan," the House committee's report said. "Management and senior DOE employees privately discussed congressional support for the [radiation program] and its nexus to regulatory limits yet still maintained their agenda to close the program."
The report concluded that the Energy Department's actions are a reflection of an "institutional problem that must be corrected by overhauling its management practices with respect to its relationship with the Congress," it read.
"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," said Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, chairman of the committee.
"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," Smith said. "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."
The report's findings show "a reckless and calculated attack on the legislative process itself, which undermines the power of Congress to legislate," according to the report. "The committee further concludes that DOE's disregard for separation of powers is not limited to a small group of employees" and is institutional in scope.
The report purports to show how senior officials retaliated against agency scientists who were part of a national security program looking at the effects of low-dose radiation exposure on human beings and the environment.
The program was set up in the 1990s to examine the effects of radiation on public health, with overlap in nuclear energy, nuclear weapons and the understanding of the effects of an improvised explosive devices using radioactive material on the U.S. populace — a so-called "dirty bomb."
The retaliation that Smith refers to comes into play after a Republican member of Congress sought to reauthorize the radiation program and introduced legislation to do so.
The report said that on Sept. 18, 2014, Rep. Paul Broun, R-Ga., introduced the bill, the Low-Dose Radiation Research Act of 2014, which directed the National Academies to create a long-term research agenda on the program.
The following month, House science and energy committees' staff met with Energy Department scientists at a briefing to discuss the legislation. The Energy Department staffers were Noelle Metting, Todd Anderson, Julie Carruthers Marcos Huerta, as well as staff from the agency's Office of Congressional Affairs.
"At that time, Dr. Metting was the program manager for the [low-dose radiation program] and resident DOE subject matter expert on low dose radiation research," it said. Almost exactly one year later, Metting was fired from her job "for allegedly providing too much information in response to questions posed by committee staff during the October 2014 briefing."
Eventually, the committee found out that that the agency's decision was, in part, "retaliation against Dr. Metting because she refused to conform to the predetermined remarks and talking points designed by [agency senior officials] to undermine the advancement of H.R. 5544," the report said.
Emails from senior agency officials showed a sequence of events leading to a "premeditated scheme" by senior Energy Department officials "to squash the prospects of Senate support" of the legislation.
"Moreover, 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," the report said.