Welcome to Wasted Resources. We’re glad you’re here. The story we’re telling over the next five weeks isn’t a happy one, but it needs to be told.
The Republican majority on the House Natural Resources Committee has spent the last 18 months wasting taxpayer time and money. They control the Committee’s agenda. They can seek testimony from just about anyone. They can issue subpoenas for documents and information. And yet they’ve managed to ignore almost every important environmental issue we face.
The pattern over the past 18 months has been clear.
Instead of a hearing on how to address or prevent climate change, they’ll hold a hearing to claim that it’s all a hoax.
Instead of a hearing on the environmental impacts of Trump’s proposed border wall, they’ll spend hours calling environmental laws a national security threat.
Instead of examining ways to strengthen laws like the National Environmental Policy Act, they’ll hold a hearing calling it a “weapon” that environmental supporters allegedly use to destroy the economy — a claim that Republicans’ own task force found completely bogus years ago.
The Republican majority has ignored the fact that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is the most ethically challenged member of the Trump administration — they haven’t held any oversight hearings on his tenure, which has featured more than a dozen formal investigations by the DOI inspector general, the Office of Special Counsel and other watchdog agencies — and their only requests for Zinke documents are focused on what a great job he’s doing cleaning up the Department’s workforce. Among the big stories they seem to have missed:
The meeting in Zinke’s office, during work hours, with a Montana property developer and the chairman of the oil contractor Halliburton where he swears he didn’t talk business, even though the developer is building on land the Zinke family controls.
The $12,375 chartered flight he got approval for without disclosing its political purpose.
His public calendars hiding who he meets with or what they discuss.
His promise, later walked back without explanation, to exempt Florida from offshore oil and gas drilling, which was widely viewed as a political favor for GOP Senate candidate Rick Scott (currently the state’s governor).
His remark that workplace diversity is “not important” and his poorly documented reassignment of senior-level staff that disproportionately impacted Native American DOI employees.
As any Zinke watcher knows, this list barely scratches the surface.
As far as the Republican majority is concerned, none of these issues deserve a hearing, and neither does his blatant corporate favoritism. On his watch, DOI shut down a federally funded review of research on the health impacts of mountaintop removal coal mining by claiming it was part of a larger effort to save taxpayer money — a claim the DOI inspector general declared totally baseless. We never held a hearing on that either.
So if the big picture is already clear — the majority is wasting public resources and not doing its job — what is this series about? It’s about examining what the last 18 months have looked like in practice. It’s about how the majority’s week-in, week-out misuse of the public trust has played out in real time. We’ll revisit the misguided hearings they chose to hold, the crucial issues they ignored, and how Committee Democrats were getting things done for the American people in the face of all this.
Wasted Resources kicks off today by highlighting a Committee hearing on July 13, 2017.
Each Tuesday and Thursday until the series wraps up, you’ll see an update following this template. We’ll leave this introductory language here for newcomers and to refresh readers’ memory, but this is the last time you’ll see this many words in a Wasted Resources post. From now on, here’s what to expect.