GOP: Worker fired for back­ing ra­di­a­tion plan

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY TOM HOW­ELL JR.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion fired an em­ployee for telling the truth to Congress, GOP law­mak­ers charged Tues­day, say­ing po­lit­i­cal ap­pointees at the En­ergy Depart­ment were up­set the woman backed a ra­di­a­tion pro­gram pop­u­lar on Capi­tol Hill but which the depart­ment had planned to ax.

En­ergy of­fi­cials had hoped to can­ni­bal­ize the money to fund global warm­ing re­search, but stum­bled when Dr. Noelle Met­ting in­stead de­fended ra­di­a­tion re­search fund­ing, House Repub­li­cans said in a staff re­port.

Dr. Met­ting was fired soon after the Oct. 16, 2014, brief­ing she de­liv­ered, and the House Science Com­mit­tee says it has ob­tained doc­u­ments show­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tion was up­set at her for stray­ing from pre-ap­proved talk­ing points.

“In­stead of pro­vid­ing the type of sci­en­tific in­for­ma­tion needed by Congress to leg­is­late ef­fec­tively, se­nior de­part­men­tal of­fi­cials sought to hide in­for­ma­tion, lob­bied against leg­is­la­tion, and re­tal­i­ated against a sci­en­tist for be­ing forth­com­ing,” Com­mit­tee Chair­man La­mar Smith, Texas Repub­li­can, said.

The com­mit­tee said the fir­ing likely had a chill­ing ef­fect within the agency and amounted to a “pre­med­i­tated and cal­cu­lated at­tack on the leg­isla­tive process.”

The En­ergy Depart­ment es­tab­lished the lowradi­a­tion pro­gram in the 1990s to study the health im­pacts of ex­po­sure dur­ing med­i­cal di­ag­nos­tic tests, waste cleanup, work with nu­clear weapons or power pro­duc­tion, nat­u­ral dis­as­ters or acts of ter­ror­ism.

The agency’s fis­cal 2016 bud­get re­quest pro­posed shut­ter­ing the ra­di­a­tion pro­gram to in­crease fund­ing for bioen­ergy and mod­el­ing for Pres­i­dent Obama’s ef­fort to stem cli­mate change, the com­mit­tee re­port said.

Con­gres­sional aides said the low-ra­di­a­tion pro­gram was re­ceiv­ing about $20 mil­lion per year.

Dr. Met­ting’s at­tor­neys con­tacted the House panel in late 2015 to de­scribe the her treat­ment, prompt­ing the com­mit­tee’s investigation.

Con­gres­sional aides said Dr. Met­ting was first placed in an­other po­si­tion at the En­ergy Depart­ment and then fired, only to be re-hired — though not in her ini­tial job — after su­ing the agency.

A spokesman for the En­ergy Depart­ment re­sponded to the re­port by say­ing the agency “will not com­ment on per­son­nel mat­ters.”

The com­mit­tee’s rank­ing Demo­crat, Rep. Ed­die Ber­nice John­son of Texas, said her mem­bers agreed with GOP mem­bers dur­ing a hear­ing in Septem­ber — that En­ergy Depart­ment of­fi­cials mis­han­dled the is­sue — so she was “dis­ap­pointed” that she did not know about the staff re­port prior to its re­lease.

“So while mi­nor­ity staff have al­ready made me aware of some sig­nif­i­cant omis­sions and overly broad gen­er­al­iza­tions in the re­port, I can­not com­ment on its find­ings and con­clu­sions in de­tail at this time,” she said. “It is im­por­tant that we en­sure that fed­eral sci­en­tists are not pre­vented or dis­cour­aged from shar­ing in­for­ma­tion with Congress.”

“It is equally im­por­tant that fed­eral sci­en­tists not be in­tim­i­dated by Congress,” she added, re­fer­ring to Chair­man Smith’s de­ci­sion to sub­poena sci­en­tists at Na­tional Oceanic and At­mo­spheric Ad­min­is­tra­tion last year over their re­search on global warm­ing.

The House GOP re­port is the lat­est in a line of com­plaints about how Mr. Obama and his aides have treated Capi­tol Hill. From slow-walk­ing re­quests to with­hold­ing in­for­ma­tion and forc­ing Congress to is­sue sub­poe­nas, Repub­li­cans say Mr. Obama has not treated them with dis­dain.

Mr. Smith said he hoped for bet­ter co­op­er­a­tion as the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion gives way to Pres­i­den­t­elect Don­ald Trump and his cab­i­net.

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