Interior secretary: GOP requests cost millions

Information requests from Republicans on the House Natural Resources Committee have cost the Interior Department at least $2 million in less than two years, Interior Secretary Sally JewellSally JewellOvernight Energy: New push for GOP to embrace carbon tax Obama Interior chief slams Trump’s decision on Dakota Access Overnight Energy: Rough hearing for Tillerson MORE said Tuesday.

In response to the committee’s requests, Jewell and her employees have sent more than 5,500 documents totaling more than 60,000 pages, plus briefings and narrative responses to questions since the beginning of last year, she said.

ADVERTISEMENT
The $2 million figure is conservative, Jewell said, and it doesn’t cover time spent by officials on briefings, hearings, interpreting requests or meeting with members of the committee or staff.

Jewell sent her letter a day before the panel plans to hold a hearing drilling Interior officials for allegedly failing to respond to subpoenas. Republicans on the committee have repeatedly accused Jewell and her staff of disregarding their demands for information and documents.

“Often, the staff [that are] needed to respond to the committee’s oversight requests must be diverted from their regular duties carrying out the mission and important day-to-day operation of the department and its bureaus,” Jewell wrote in the letter, which was provided by the committee’s Democratic staff.

In one case, a request from the panel required Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe to divert a quarter of his agency’s special agent force for several weeks of full-time work, Jewell said.

“I respect the committee’s role in overseeing the activities of the department,” Jewell wrote. “To that end, for years the department has allocated substantial time and resources to responding to the committee’s multiple requests.”

Tomorrow’s hearing will feature Ashe and Interior’s Solicitor Hilary Tompkins, speaking about how the department enforces wildlife laws and responds to congressional requests.

The Natural Resources panel is led by Rep. Doc HastingsDoc HastingsCongress just resolved a 20-year debate over Neolithic remains Boehner hires new press secretary GOP plots new course on Endangered Species Act reform MORE (R-Wash.).

“There are ongoing concerns that the Obama administration is implementing these wildlife laws in an arbitrary fashion,” the committee said in a hearing notice last week.

“A subpoena was issued for documents about the administration’s development of policies and regulations implementing these laws, as well as information about closed enforcement cases,” it said.

The panel went on to accuse Interior of failing “to fully comply with a congressional subpoena for documents.”

In response to Jewell’s letter, the committee accused Interior of trying to dodge its requests.

“They’re going out of their way to block the release of information on decisions and actions they’ve taken and it is flat-out wrong,” said Jill Griffiths, a committee spokeswoman. “They’d rather play games than be honest and forthcoming.”