11 Democratic U.S. Senators protest NRC's restrictions on transparency and accountability to Congress
On Nov. 21st, a group of ten Democratic U.S. Senators wrote U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Chairwoman Allison Macfarlane regarding their concerns about new agency policies restricting transparency, even to Members of Congress. (Actually, to set the record straight, Bernie Sanders is an Independent -- a Socialist, to be exact -- from Vermont. He caucuses with the Democrats.)
One of signatories, U.S. Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA, photo left), a press release, stating, that the new NRC policy restricts congressional oversight and undermines transparency.
“This change in policy is clearly inconsistent with your stated commitment, is contrary to principles of government accountability, and in conflict with Congress’s constitutionally-authorized oversight authorities,” the Senators wrote in the letter to NRC Chief Macfarlane.
The other nine signatories on the letter are: Senators Menendez (NJ), Leahy (VT), Wyden (OR), Sanders (VT), Warren (MA), Gillibrand (NY), Blumenthal (CT), Baldwin (WI) and Whitehouse (RI).
Separately, a tenth U.S. Senate Democrat, Barbara Boxer of California (photo, above left), the Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, also wrote NRC Chairwoman Macfarlane. Boxer stated that "Any effort to obstruct or impede my oversight activities is unacceptable," and demanded NRC explain why certain documents concerning safety concerns at the San Onofre nuclear power plant were evidently removed prior to delivery of boxes to Chairwoman Boxer's committee staff. Boxer also issued a press release.
Reporting on an EPW oversight hearing on NRC that took place this week, a blog in The Hill entitled "Boxer slams nuke regulator's 'intimidation,'" reported:
Boxer said the policy was evidenced earlier this week when NRC personnel sought to restrict her staff’s review of records related to an ongoing probe of safety issues at the San Onofre plant in Southern California. Boxer’s staffers were told that they could be physically searched for stolen documents after they had finished reviewing them, she said.
“Let me be clear — no form of agency intimidation or obstruction will be tolerated in this committee’s investigation or its Constitutional oversight responsibilities,” Boxer said. “Action will be taken if you do not reverse your policy.”
The EPW website has information about the hearing of the Clean Air and Nuclear Safety Subcommittee, including a link to the archived webcast. However, the hearing included only opening statements by the full Committee, as well as the Subcommittee, Chairs and Ranking Members. After about a half hour, the Subcommittee hearing was interrupted by the Senate floor vote -- dubbed "the Nuclear Option," ironically enough -- on ending filibusters on confirmations of presidential judicial and agency appointments. The hearing has yet to be re-scheduled.