Oversight and Investigations
Created in the 114th Congress, the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee has jurisdiction over each agency and program overseen by the full Committee.
Congressional oversight of federal agencies is an essential part of the legislative process. Since the late 1700s, congressional oversight and investigations have made a major impact on ensuring government accountability and have led to major policy improvements.
Democrats on the Subcommittee will fight for the transparency necessary for good governance. We will:
- Root out waste, fraud and abuse that degrade the resources on which we depend
- Fact-check claims used to undermine our bedrock environmental laws
- Investigate the sources and impacts of climate change, the single biggest issue that affects every aspect of the Committee’s work
- Ensure that our policies are based on the best science available – science that is free of financial conflicts of interest
California’s 45th District
Nydia M. Velázquez
New York 7th District
Jesús G. “Chuy” García
Illinois 4th District
Tennessee’s 9th District
California 2nd District
Investigations and Reports
The following reports were developed by the Democratic staff of the House Natural Resources Committee:
- 2017: A Year of the Resistance (January 29, 2017) - The year-end report highlights the relentless attacks Republicans in Congress and the administration have made on our country's foundational environmental policies.
- #InteriorToo (January 24, 2018) - The report focuses on the sexual harassment problems across the Department of the Interior and offers recommendations on how to instill strong anti-harassment policies.
- Missing the Mark, Part II (December 7, 2017) - An update to a groundbreaking report assessing the impacts of trophy hunting on efforts to conserve threatened and endangered wildlife in four African countries.
A complete list of Committee reports can be viewed here.
Conflicts of Interest in Government
- Undue Influence: Public officials and federal employees have an ethical obligation to serve the public’s interest-free from financial or corporate influence. Nevertheless, the Trump administration has already shown that they are willing to trade public land protections for fossil fuel interests. Our public servants must be held accountable to the public and to the natural resources they have a duty to protect.
- Hearing Witnesses’ Conflicts of Interest: House Rules require nongovernmental witnesses appearing before House committees to disclose their federal and foreign funding. However, House Rules do not require disclosure of private or corporate funding sources like fossil fuel companies or developers. There are clear instances in which witnesses, who had potential, perceived, or actual conflicts of interest, gave expert testimony to Congress without disclosing them – and it was perfectly legal.
Protecting the Science on Climate Change
- The effects of climate change—warming global temperatures, more frequent and severe extreme weather events, increased outbreaks of infectious diseases like dengue, rising rates of asthma and heat-related illness, and more—are affecting us all. But House Republicans and the Trump administration are intent on torturing the science to try to justify their neglect of the issue of a generation.
- Reducing funding for programs that help make climate change less severe and help us prepare for the damage that has already been done is fiscally and morally irresponsible.
- Decisions that undermine our ability to deal with climate change, and to protect those of us that are most vulnerable to its effects – like communities of color – must be called out and investigated.
Sexual Harassment in Federal Agencies
The report, #InteriorToo: Addressing sexual harassment across the Department of the Interior starts with strong anti-harassment policies, shows clearly how the Department of the Interior (DOI) and its bureaus can combat their sometimes pervasive sexual harassment problems.
- Over the last five years, DOI, particularly the National Park Service, has been plagued with a troubling number of sexual harassment incidents. Nearly 1 out of every 10 employees at DOI reports being sexually harassed. President Trump’s Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, has claimed a “zero tolerance” policy for sexual harassment.
- The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has identified best practices for addressing all types of harassment in the workplace. An important first step is a strong anti-harassment policy. A recent committee staff report shows that current anti-harassment policies at DOI and its bureaus are inadequate.
- DOI has a duty to protect its employees from sexual harassment and to apply effective disciplinary action when wrongdoing has occurred.
The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA): Giving Citizens a Voice
The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) embodies the fundamental tenets of American democracy. NEPA helps the American public do the following:
- NEPA gives people a voice in major decision-making. Corporate polluters seeking favorable treatment from government agencies operate best when the public has less time and fewer opportunities to review and understand their objectives. Attacks on NEPA strike at the very heart of the environmental movement and American democracy: the idea that all the people, not just well-heeled interests, should be allowed to influence public policy.
- NEPA helps people live in clean, safe neighborhoods. NEPA is a critical tool for environmental justice, helping communities – particularly communities of color – that cannot afford expensive lobbyists have a say in protecting their lands, waters, and values. The argument that NEPA stifles development rings hollow given the economic growth our country has experienced in the more than 40 years since its passage.
Similar to other bedrock environmental laws, NEPA is under attack:
- Congressional Republicans say NEPA causes project delays and lost economic opportunity. In fact however, 95% of all NEPA analyses are completed through a Categorical Exclusion (CatEx), which generally requires only a few days to process. Less than 1% of projects require a full Environmental Impact Statement.
- Congress has removed NEPA’s public participation requirements from laws governing transportation, water infrastructure, energy development, public land management, and fisheries.
Fighting for Environmental Justice
It is a fundamental principle of American law and our system of separation of powers that citizens can turn to the legal system to hold the government accountable. Citizen action can ensure agency compliance with statutory mandates that Congress enacted, such as requiring public input and participation.
Laws that allow American citizens access to the courts - regardless of their income or status – are essential to preserving our democracy. Without these laws, government agencies, large corporations, and wealthy individuals could simply use their power to wait out or discourage legal action from less well-heeled members of the public. These laws include:
- Congressionally enacted fee-shifting provisions that authorize the award of attorney’s fees and costs to the prevailing party.
- Citizen suit statutes that authorize courts to award attorney’s fees and costs to the prevailing party.
- In the absence of an applicable fee-shifting, citizen suit provision, the Equal Access to Justice Act acts as a safety net and allows for reimbursement of attorney fees to plaintiffs who prevail in court or bring about corrective changes through legal action.
A number of our bedrock environmental laws contain citizen suit provisions, including the Clean Air Act, National Environmental Policy Act, and Endangered Species Act. Citizen suits have leveled the legal playing field for all Americans and have led to significant improvements in public health, environmental quality, and natural resource management.
However, House Republicans have launched a coordinated attack to tip the scales of justice in favor of corporate interests that do not want to be held accountable for the environmental damage they cause. Through hearings and legislation, they are seeking to chip away at citizens’ rights to access the courts and ensure environmental justice for their communities.