Grijalva Asks Interior Inspector General to Examine Stopped National Academies Studies, Locate Missing Public Funds

Washington, D.C. – Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) sent a letter to Interior Department Deputy Inspector General Mary Kendall today requesting an investigation of the Trump administration’s halting of two major studies at the National Academies of Sciences (NAS). The public rationales for the stop-work orders do not stand up to scrutiny and suggest political motives, Grijalva writes.

In August 2017, the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) halted work on a $1 million public health study titled Potential Human Health Effects of Surface Coal Mining Operations in Central Appalachia. At that point the study was more than halfway completed and $600,000 had already been spent. The administration claimed the stoppage was necessary because of “the changing budget situation” that required a review of all grants and cooperative agreements of $100,000 or more. There has been no indication that any other grants or cooperative agreements were halted in a similar manner.

As Grijalva points out, since the study was obligated using fiscal year 2016 money and OSMRE works on a 2-year funding schedule, the $400,000 remaining on the cooperative agreement would have had to be re-obligated by September 30, 2017. Grijalva sent letters to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on Aug. 25 and Oct. 17 last year requesting information about the work stoppage and the fate of the $400,000. Zinke has failed to respond to either letter.

Separately, on Dec. 21, NAS announced that the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) – which oversees offshore oil drilling – had issued a stop-work order on a study titled Review and Update of Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement Offshore Oil and Gas Operations Inspection Program. A BSEE spokesperson said at the time that the pause would let the agency determine whether the study “duplicates efforts with the development of the risk-based component of our inspection program, which is taking place internally at BSEE.”

As Grijalva writes today:

[T]he development of BSEE’s risk-based inspection program dates back to at least February 2011, when it was included in the FY 2012 budget justification for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement. Leaving aside the question of how long it should take to develop a risk-based inspection program, potential duplication was clearly not a concern when BSEE first requested the NAS study, although BSEE is now claiming that this requires halting work on the study and potentially cancelling it.

Grijalva asks Kendall to investigate the real reasons the studies were halted and where the missing $400,000 has gone. A copy of today’s letter is available at http://bit.ly/2CWff8F.

Press Contact

Media Contact: Adam Sarvana                                                                

(202) 225-6065 or (202) 578-6626