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house nrPanel: Obama Administration Relies on Cherry-Picked Science and Non-Transparent Tactics to Justify Overreaching Agenda

Washington, D.C. -- Today (May 19, 2016), the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources held an oversight hearing to examine deficiencies in regulatory transparency at the Department of the Interior (DOI).

Transparency is the cornerstone of a participatory democracy, but there are glaring failures from the increasing use of executive orders and questionable science from the self-proclaimed “most transparent Administration.” Regulations have insufficient public comment periods, lack independently verifiable supporting data and the cumulative impacts are never assessed.  Time after time, access to supporting scientific studies and agency data are unavailable to the public.  

Even lease sale data released by Bureau of Land Management (BLM) this April – but date stamped October 29, 2015 – clearly demonstrated that the BLM purposefully withheld this information from Congress despite multiple requests by the Committee – some requests even dating back to December 2015.  

"Agencies have picked and chosen scientific studies to bolster their efforts—and then have failed to even disclose these studies for public comment—as we have seen with the Stream Buffer Zone rule or offshore seismic regulations in the Atlantic […] In some cases just getting information from the Department of the Interior has been like pulling teeth," Subcommittee Chairman Doug Lamborn (R-CO) said.  

Dr. Richard Belzer, former Staff Economist at the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), saw firsthand the agenda-driven science guiding regulations and policy. He believes that agencies should have something at stake for transparency and that there should be incentives for compliance and disclosure.

"Much of this research is agency-driven and agency-driven research is highly susceptible to error, bias, inadequate validation and a lack of transparency[…] OMB may be the least transparent of Executive branch agencies with respect to its own actions; why does Congress expect it to enforce transparency elsewhere?" Belzer asked.

Peter Seidel, Americas Chapter Chair and Board Member of the International Association of Geophysical Contractors, has been waiting seven years for a permit from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) to conduct seismic surveys in the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). Surveys have not been conducted in the last 30 years and future surveys have been delayed due to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) reliance on the Duke model, a study unavailable to the public and financed by federal funding.

"The Duke model, which NMFS is using to estimate incidental takes during proposed surveys, does not use actual counts of animals rather assumptions about where the animals are likely to be found. The lack of transparency in how NMFS has used the Duke model to consider [Incidental Harassment Authorizations] applications is a prime example of regulatory uncertainty and government run amuck," Seidel stated.

Kathleen Sgamma, Vice President of Government and Public Affairs for the Western Energy Alliance, raised concerns about regulatory action surrounding the Greater Sage Grouse as DOI uses selective science, spins statistics and ignores related studies that work in opposition to their agenda.

"Greater Sage Grouse will have implications across 11 states and 165 million acres in the West. Yet, we had to file three FOIA lawsuits and four Data Quality Act challenges just to get basic information from the Department of the Interior including the BLM, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Geological Survey. Information that should have been in the public domain," Sgamma said.

The onslaught of regulations and lack of transparency from the Obama Administration drive economic development away from federal lands and diminish the potential of future energy security.

"The lack of transparency and reliance upon scientifically questionable regulation and policy cannot continue if our country intends to continue to chart our own energy future," Seidel stated.

DOI was invited to testify at the hearing, but declined to provide a witness.

Click HERE to view full witness testimony.

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