Chairman Issa: Energy Department wastes paper in providing documents

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) alleged this week that the Energy Department is wasting thousands of pages of paper.

In a letter Thursday to Energy Secretary Steven Chu that was obtained by The Hill, Issa criticized the department for not providing electronic copies of documents requested by the committee as part of its investigation into various energy programs.

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“This approach to producing documents wastes taxpayer dollars and is inconsistent with DOE’s stated commitment to reducing paper waste,” Issa said in the letter, noting that the department has sent his panel 300,000 “single-sided” pages of documents.

An administration source dismissed Issa’s allegations Friday, arguing that the cost of printing is small in comparison to the cost to the Energy Department of complying with the chairman’s requests for documents. The source said it is Energy Department protocol to provide paper copies of documents.

“In reality, the VAST majority of the cost of complying isn't the printing, but rather the enormous amount of attorney time that it takes to collect, review and prepare the responses,” the source said. “The Department’s response has required thousands of hours of staff time from at least 12 separate DOE offices.”

Issa is conducting 10 separate investigations into various Energy Department programs, according to the source, and the committee has requested documents from the department more than a dozen times.

Pouncing on the collapse of solar panel producer Solyndra last year, Issa launched a broad investigation into the Energy Department’s loan program. Separately, Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee are conducting a probe specifically focused on the $535 million loan guarantee to Solyndra.

White House and Obama administration officials have alleged that Republican investigations into the loan program are intended to score political points going into the election and they’ve called the GOP document requests “overly broad.”

“We have been saying for close to a year that the arbitrary and excessive requests for documentation are a burden that undercuts effective oversight. We are glad to see that the Chairman finally agrees with us," the administration source said, adding that a full response to Issa's request could take a year and result in 1 million pages of documents.

Issa, in his letter, criticized Chu for not requiring that the documents be transmitted to the committee electronically, as the panel often requested.

“As the former director of one of the most technologically advanced energy labs in the world, it is alarming that you allow such behavior to take place,” he said.

Issa also said many of the pages were redundant or unnecessary.

“The documents produced so far contain hundreds, possibly thousands, of pages of paper that are blank or simply a run-on from a spreadsheet (e.g. a black line that goes on for nearly a hundred pages),” he wrote. “Suffice it to say, this is irresponsible and wasteful.”

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