Oversight and Investigations
The Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee has jurisdiction over each agency and program overseen by the full Committee.
Congressional oversight of federal agencies is an essential part of the legislative process. Since the late 1700s, congressional oversight and investigations have improved federal government accountability and have led to major policy improvements.
Democrats on the Subcommittee will fight for the transparency necessary for good governance. We will:
- Root out waste, fraud, abuse, and corruption that degrade the resources on which we depend
- Fact-check claims used to undermine our bedrock environmental laws
- Investigate the sources and impacts of climate change, the single biggest issue that affects every aspect of the Committee’s work
- Ensure that our policies are based on the best science available – science that is free of financial conflicts of interest
Raúl M. Grijalva
Investigations and Reports
The following investigations, reports, and policies were developed by the Democratic staff of the House Natural Resources Committee:
- Bible Beating: The Trump Administration’s Violent Crackdown on Peaceful Protestors in Lafayette Square (June 1, 2023)
The report explores the Trump administration’s explanations for the violent clearing of peaceful protesters at Lafayette Square on June 1, 2020, as well as the evidence that the clearing was executed for a photo opportunity for President Trump.
- The Role of Public Relations Firms in Preventing Action on Climate Change (September 14, 2022)
The Hearing Report presents findings and redacted documents from the Committee’s investigation into PR firms’ work on behalf of fossil fuel companies to mislead the public and block climate change policy proposals. A corresponding hearing featured a whistleblower that detailed her experience in dealing with a PR Firm hired to harass, intimidate, and prevent her from collecting ballot signatures.
- Vigneto Investigation and Criminal Referral (May 11, 2022)
The criminal referral to the Department of Justice outlines evidence of a likely criminal quid pro quo between Trump administration officials, including former U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, and Arizona real estate developer Mike Ingram.
- Puerto Rico Energy Resilience Fund (PR-ERF)
Oversight of Puerto Rico’s energy struggles led to the establishment of the $1 billion Energy Resilience Fund for the Department of Energy to improve the resilience of Puerto Rico’s electric grid by connecting residents who are low-income or who have a disability with rooftop solar and battery storage equipment.
- Wildlife-borne Diseases with Pandemic Potential
The Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee explored the potential for wildlife-borne diseases like Avian flu, COVID, Lyme Disease, and Ebola to cause outbreaks or even pandemics in people. The Committee hosted a hearing in 2019 on chronic wasting disease, a roundtable in 2020 on the impacts of wildlife-borne diseases on human health, and a hearing in 2022 on the importance of monitoring wildlife diseases and preventing public health crises. Resulting emergency funding for State wildlife agencies to perform surveillance was a good start. The permanent authorization of such funds, as recommended by scientists and national security experts, is the next step.
A complete list of Committee reports can be viewed here.
Conflicts of Interest in Government
- Undue Influence: Public officials and federal employees have an ethical obligation to serve the public’s interest free from financial or corporate influence. Public servants under improper monied influence must be held accountable to the public and to the natural resources they have a duty to protect.
- Hearing Witnesses’ Conflicts of Interest: House Rules require nongovernmental witnesses appearing before House committees to disclose their federal and foreign funding. However, House Rules do not require disclosure of private or corporate funding sources like fossil fuel companies or developers. There are clear instances in which witnesses, who had potential, perceived, or actual conflicts of interest, gave expert testimony to Congress without disclosing them – and it was perfectly legal.
Exposing the Biggest Barrier to Addressing Climate Change: Climate Denial
- The effects of climate change—warming global temperatures, more frequent and severe extreme weather events, increased outbreaks of infectious diseases like dengue and malaria, rising rates of asthma and heat-related illness, and more—are affecting us all. But House Republicans are intent on manipulating and misrepresenting the science to try to justify their neglect of the issue of a generation.
- Reducing funding for programs that help make climate change less severe and help us prepare for the damage that has already been done is fiscally and morally irresponsible.
- Decisions that undermine our ability to deal with climate change, and to protect those of us that are most vulnerable to its effects – like communities of color – must be called out and investigated.
Sexual Harassment in Federal Agencies
The report, #InteriorToo: Addressing sexual harassment across the Department of the Interior starts with strong anti-harassment policies, shows clearly how the Department of the Interior (DOI) and its bureaus can combat their sometimes pervasive sexual harassment problems.
- DOI, particularly the National Park Service, has been plagued with a troubling number of sexual harassment and workplace toxicity incidents. Nearly 1 out of every 10 employees at DOI reports being sexually harassed. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has identified best practices for addressing all types of harassment in the workplace. An important first step is a strong anti-harassment policy. A committee staff report showed that anti-harassment policies at DOI and its bureaus were inadequate.
- DOI’s Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Civil Rights is responsible for developing and enforcing civil rights and equal opportunity for all Departmental employees and federally assisted programs by the Department. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland established the first Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) Council within DOI to advance the Biden-Harris administration’s work to prioritize equity and inclusion across the federal government. The Committee hosted a hearing in 2020 on barriers and solutions for recruiting, retaining, and promoting a diverse workforce at DOI.
- DOI has a duty to provide a workplace in which its employees can bring their whole selves to work without fear of harassment or retaliation.
The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA): Giving Citizens a Voice
The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) embodies the fundamental tenets of American democracy. NEPA helps the American public do the following:
- NEPA gives people a voice in major decision-making. Corporate polluters seeking favorable treatment from government agencies operate best when the public has less time and fewer opportunities to review and understand their objectives. Attacks on NEPA strike at the very heart of the environmental movement and American democracy: the idea that all the people, not just well-heeled interests, should be allowed to influence public policy.
- NEPA helps people live in clean, safe neighborhoods. NEPA is a critical tool for environmental justice, helping communities – particularly communities of color – that cannot afford expensive lobbyists have a say in protecting their lands, waters, and values. The argument that NEPA stifles development rings hollow given the economic growth our country has experienced in the more than 40 years since its passage.
Similar to other bedrock environmental laws, NEPA is under attack:
- Congressional Republicans say NEPA causes project delays and lost economic opportunity. In reality, 95% of all NEPA analyses are completed through a Categorical Exclusion (CatEx), which generally requires only a few days to process. Less than 1% of projects require a full Environmental Impact Statement.
- Republicans have removed NEPA’s public participation requirements from laws governing transportation, water infrastructure, energy development, public land management, and fisheries.
Fighting for Environmental Justice
It is a fundamental principle of American law and our system of separation of powers that citizens can turn to the legal system to hold the government accountable. Citizen action can ensure agency compliance with statutory mandates that Congress enacted, such as requiring public input and participation.
Laws that allow American citizens access to the courts - regardless of their income or status – are essential to preserving our democracy. Without these laws, government agencies, large corporations, and wealthy individuals could simply use their power to wait out or discourage legal action from less well-heeled members of the public. These laws include:
- Congressionally enacted fee-shifting provisions that authorize the award of attorney’s fees and costs to the prevailing party.
- Citizen suit statutes that authorize courts to award attorney’s fees and costs to the prevailing party.
- In the absence of an applicable fee-shifting, citizen suit provision, the Equal Access to Justice Act acts as a safety net and allows for reimbursement of attorney fees to plaintiffs who prevail in court or bring about corrective changes through legal action.
A number of our bedrock environmental laws contain citizen suit provisions, including the Clean Air Act, National Environmental Policy Act, and Endangered Species Act. Citizen suits have leveled the legal playing field for all Americans and have led to significant improvements in public health, environmental quality, and natural resource management.
However, House Republicans have launched a coordinated attack to tip the scales of justice in favor of corporate interests that do not want to be held accountable for the environmental damage they cause. Through hearings and legislation, they are seeking to chip away at citizens’ rights to access the courts and ensure environmental justice for their communities.