CONGRESSMAN JIM SENSENBRENNER - PROUDLY SERVING WISCONSIN‘S 5TH DISTRICT

Press Releases and Statements

SENSENBRENNER URGES END TO WHITE HOUSE OFFICE OF ENERGY AND CLIMATE POLICY

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Washington, Jan 28, 2011 | Wendy Riemann ((202) 225-5101) | comments

Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, (R-WI) sent a letter to President Obama today urging him to disband the White House Office of Energy and Climate Policy, given its lack of transparency and concerns about the integrity of the scientific information released by the Administration, among other issues.

“As Carol Browner recently resigned from leading the office, now is an opportune time to disband this office, move away from the past practices and move forward openly and with greater transparency,” Sensenbrenner said.

In the letter, Sensenbrenner cites recent concerns the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the United States Geological Survey expressed over numbers the White House wanted them to use in a co-authored report on the Gulf oil spill.

Sensenbrenner wrote, “These statements raise serious questions about the integrity of scientific information released by your Administration.  The problem is compounded by the lack of transparency and the difficulty that arises from White House officials taking direct roles within agencies while still demanding the right to secrecy that would typically only be afforded to close Presidential advisors.  It subverts the Constitution to allow official who were not confirmed by the U.S. Senate to make decisions that should be reserved to those who were.”

The complete letter can be read below.

Sensenbrenner is Vice Chairman of the Science and Technology Committee and serves on the Committee’s Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee.

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President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC  20500

Dear President Obama,
I am writing to urge you to disband the White House Office of Energy and Climate Policy.  From its beginning, this office, and your Administration’s reliance on “czars” in general, has raised constitutional concerns for Congress.  As the late-Senator Robert Byrd wrote:

As presidential assistants and advisers, these White House staffers are not accountable for their actions to the Congress, to cabinet officials, and to virtually anyone but the president.  They rarely testify before congressional committees, and often shield the information and decision-making process behind the assertion of executive privilege. In too many instances, White House staff have been allowed to inhibit openness and transparency, and reduce accountability.

Senator Byrd’s concerns have unfortunately proved prescient.  On August 4, 2010, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the United States Geological Survey (USGS) co-authored a report known as the “oil budget” that claimed that 74% of the oil in the gulf was gone.  Many scientists questioned the veracity of the figure, and Congressional investigators appropriately focused their attention on the report’s authors, NOAA and USGS. 

It now appears that NOAA itself had concerns.  According to recent press, before the oil budget was released, NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco wrote in an email to White House staffers that she was “concerned to hear that the oil budget is being portrayed as saying that 75 percent of the oil is gone.  It’s not accurate to say that 75 percent of the oil is gone.”

These statements raise serious questions about the integrity of scientific information released by your Administration.  The problem is compounded by the lack of transparency and the difficulty that arises from White House officials taking direct roles within agencies while still demanding the right to secrecy that would typically only be afforded to close Presidential advisors.  It subverts the Constitution to allow officials who were not confirmed by the U.S. Senate to make decisions that should be reserved to those who were.

Carol Browner’s recent resignation from the Office of Energy and Climate Policy provides a natural opportunity to break from these past practices and move forward openly and transparently.  I therefore urge you to discontinue your Office of Energy and Climate Policy. 

Sincerely,

F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr.
Vice-Chairman, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology

cc:  The Honorable Ralph Hall
Chairman, Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
The Honorable Eddie Bernice Johnson
Ranking Member, Committee on Science, Space, and Technology

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