Letter Updates

Jun 5, 2023
Press Release

E&C Leaders Press Health Department Watchdog for Information about Outdated and Incorrect Medicaid Enrollment

Washington, D.C. — House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Subcommittee on Health Chair Brett Guthrie (R-KY), and Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chair Morgan Griffith (R-VA), on behalf of the Health and Oversight Subcommittee Republicans, today sent a letter to Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Inspector General (IG) Christi Grimm. The letter highlights concerns surrounding improper Medicaid payments and challenges States face in maintaining accurate enrollment during and after the eligibility redetermination process.  “It is critical that CMS and States take action to reduce the number of improper Medicaid payments to ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent to care for the most vulnerable who Medicaid was designed to help,” Chairs Rodgers, Guthrie, and Griffith wrote.   Background :  In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which included provisions for enhanced Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) of 6.2% for States and required continuous Medicaid coverage through the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE).  The PHE led to a surge in Medicaid enrollment, increasing from 70 million to nearly 95 million individuals.  As part of the 2023 Consolidated Appropriations Act, States are authorized to start the process of redetermining Medicaid eligibility from April 1, 2023.  Research demonstrates that even before the COVID-19 pandemic, maintaining accurate Medicaid enrollment posed a significant challenge for CMS.  Past audits from the HHS IG have found inaccuracies in Medicaid enrollment resulted in improper payments.  The Chairs requested a briefing from the Office of the Inspector General as well as an audit that reviews and analyzes the following information regarding ineligible beneficiaries:  The reason for beneficiaries’ ineligibility  The types of factors and information considered at the time of enrollment  The causes of incorrect eligibility determinations  The approximate time individuals were ineligibly enrolled  The approximate dollar amount spent on recipients who were ineligible  The approximate dollar amount delivered to insurance companies on behalf of ineligible enrollees  CLICK HERE to read the letter to HHS IG Grimm. 

E&C Leaders Request Top NIH Researcher Sit for Videotaped Interview After Admin Stalls on Providing Lethal Mpox Experiment Documents

Did NIH Know that Decorated Scientist Planned to Conduct Gain-of-Function Research?  Washington, D.C. — House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Subcommittee on Health Chair Brett Guthrie (R-KY), and Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chair Morgan Griffith (R-VA), on behalf of the Health and Oversight subcommittee Republicans, sent a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services requesting that the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) top expert on pox viruses sit for a videotaped, transcribed interview regarding the mysterious discontinuation of his proposed experiment to supercharge the mpox virus.  BACKGROUND:   In a September 2022 Science article , Dr. Bernard Moss of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) discussed a specific mpox project:  From the article: “Moss has been trying for years to figure out the crucial difference between two variants of monkeypox virus: clade 2, which until recently was found only in West Africa and is now causing the global outbreak, and clade 1, believed to be much deadlier, which has caused outbreaks in the Democratic Republic of Congo for many decades. He’s found that clade 1 virus can kill a mouse at levels 1000 times lower than those needed with clade 2. To find out why, Moss and his colleagues swapped dozens of clade 2 genes, one at a time, into clade 1 virus, hoping to see it become less deadly, but with no luck so far. Now, they are planning to try the opposite, endowing clade 2 virus with genes from its deadlier relative.”  The effect of the project would be to supercharge the less lethal but much more transmissible variant of the mpox virus that caused the recent U.S. epidemic by combining it with a highly lethal variant found only in the Congo Basin.  Energy and Commerce Republicans requested in a March 30, 2023, letter documents related to the experiment described in the Science article.  On April 26, 2023, NIH responded by noting the proposal did not go forward but did not explain how that occurred or how NIH could even be sure that the experiment was not already conducted.  KEY EXCERPT:   “You informed us that the study discussed by Dr. Moss 'has not been formally proposed, and NIAID has no plans to move forward with this research.' This is a stunning admission. Dr. Moss has been with the NIH since 1966, is one of the leading authorities on pox viruses, and one of the NIH’s most accomplished researchers. He has received numerous awards and prizes. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences, American Academy of Microbiology, Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and president of the American Society for Virology. Dr. Moss is currently an editor of Virology and a member of several editorial boards. Dr. Moss’s comments to Science indicate to us that he gave the study in question much thought and effort, and that he believed in going forward with the mpox study. The admission that he did not formally propose this research, and the NIAID has no plans to pursue it seems extraordinary. It seems unlikely that Dr. Moss changed his mind. On the other hand, it is hard to believe the NIAID has apparently overruled one of its most highly respected scientists. These circumstances demand a detailed explanation about what happened with this research project publicized by Dr. Moss.”  CLICK HERE to read the full letter. 

151 House Republicans Demand EPA End Their Effort to Dictate the Cars that Americans Drive

Proposed Standards Will Make it Harder for Americans to Afford New Cars Washington, D.C. — 151 House Republicans, led by Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), today sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael Regan urging him to rescind the agency’s proposed emissions standards for light- and medium-duty vehicles and heavy-duty trucks. The EPA’s ill-conceived effort is just their latest attempt to carry out President Biden’s radical rush-to-green agenda, which will take away Americans’ choice when it comes to the kind of vehicle they drive—and arm-twist people into buying vehicles they can’t afford.   CLICK HERE to read exclusive coverage from Fox News.  Excerpts and highlights from the letter:   "We write to express deep concerns with the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) proposed standards for light- and medium-duty vehicles and heavy-duty trucks. The proposals are the latest effort by the Biden administration to commandeer America’s transportation sector and force its complete vehicle electrification under the guise of mitigating climate change.    "The light- and medium-duty vehicle proposed standards are unworkable and impractical. EPA estimates that the proposed standards would lead to electric vehicles (EVs) accounting for 67 percent of new light-duty vehicle sales and 46 percent of new medium-duty vehicle sales in the United States by model year 2032. The projected statistics are a far cry from the current EV market share of 4.5 percent, making these standards a deliberate market manipulation to prop up EVs. Furthermore, a rapid shift towards EVs would benefit only the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), as China has a stranglehold on the critical minerals supply chain and manufacturing of EV batteries. For example, China currently controls 50 to 70 percent of global lithium and cobalt refining that are necessary for EV batteries.  "Additionally, EVs are not necessarily better for the environment in terms of emissions reductions.  Specifically, over its lifetime, an EV only has lower emissions than an internal combustion engine vehicle if it travels between 28,069 and 68,160 miles and remains in service for more than 10 years – circumstances which are not being realized today.   "Worst of all, the proposed standards would make life harder and even more unaffordable for Americans and their families. According to Kelley Blue Book, the average price of an EV is $65,291, which is $17,197 more than the average price of an internal combustion engine vehicle. Insurance for electric cars costs $206 per month on average, which is $44 more per month than insuring a gas-powered car. Pricing is especially important, because access to a car is tied to improved economic outcomes for low-income households. Americans should not be forced into paying an excessive amount for a car they do not want and cannot afford. Also, the lack of driving range continues to be a problem with EVs. Forcing rural America into a largely EV future is condemning these communities into isolation.    "Given that the recent EPA announcement was only a proposal, we strongly urge you to rescind this ill-considered effort . Americans want the ability to choose the vehicle that best meets their needs, that is reliable, and that they can afford -- not be forced into buying an EV." CLICK HERE to read the full letter.   NOTE: The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Environment, Manufacturing, and Critical Materials Subcommittee held a hearing on April 19 to expose the environmental, human rights, and national security risks of the Biden Administration's rush-to-green policies. CLICK HERE to watch the hearing and read opening statements and witness testimony.  

May 16, 2023
Press Release

E&C Republicans Press Cigna for Clarification After Investigative Report Accuses Insurance Company of Denying Claims Without Reading Them

Report alleges patients frequently forced to pay out-of-pocket for services that should be covered Washington, D.C. — House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Subcommittee on Health Chair Brett Guthrie (R-KY), and Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chair Morgan Griffith (VA), on behalf of the Health and Oversight Subcommittee Republicans, wrote to the President and CEO of The Cigna Group regarding an investigative report by ProPublica.   In the letter, the members note that Cigna disputes the report as “biased” and “incomplete,” and they ask the insurance company to respond to the allegations that it uses automation and AI technology to deny claims.   According to the report titled “How Cigna Saves Millions by Having its Doctors Reject Claims Without Reading Them,” which focuses on Cigna’s procedure-to-diagnosis (PXDX) review process:   The PXDX review process denies payments for claims indiscriminately, potentially leading to improper denials of coverage for medically necessary tests and procedures.   The process automatically categorizes certain claims as “unnecessary” using an algorithm in place of a clinician’s judgement.   Patients are then reportedly told that a clinician has decided such claims were not necessary and therefore not covered, despite the clinician having never reviewed individual claims.   Only an estimated five percent of policy-holders appeal denials of coverage.   By contrast, nearly one-in-five prior authorization denials in Cigna’s Medicare Advantage plans were appealed.   Why It Matters:    80 percent of Medicare Advantage coverage denials were overturned, suggesting that Cigna’s PXDX review process is leading to patients paying out-of-pocket for medical care that should be covered under their insurance policy contract.   The Chairs requested Cigna turn over documents related to the PXDX process and answer the following questions by May 30, 2023:   Describe in detail the PXDX review process, including its development, implementation, and ongoing usage.   Identify all insurance plans offered or administered by Cigna whose claims are subject to PXDX review, including, if applicable, Medicare Advantage plans.   Identify all medical directors employed by Cigna who review, submit, or approve coverage denials generated by the PXDX review process, include in your response the medical directors’ work email address, the nature of claims reviewed, and tenure at the company.   Provide the following statistics for plan year 2022 for both commercial and government contracts (broken down by government program):   The number of claims reviewed by the PXDX process;   The number of claims denied under the PXDX process;   The number of claims reviewed and denied by each clinician employed by Cigna who participates in the claim review process;   The number of claims denied by each clinician employed by Cigna and the number of claims that were actually reviewed by such clinicians;   The number of claims denied under the PXDX process that were appealed; and   The number of claims denied under the PXDX process that were appealed and overturned.   In addition, the letter serves as a request to preserve all existing and future documents related to the PXDX process.   CLICK HERE to read the full letter. 

May 10, 2023
Press Release

E&C Leaders Continue Bipartisan Investigation into Data Brokers' Potential Exploitation of Americans' Privacy

Members press companies to answer what information is collected and where it is sold Washington, D.C. — House Energy and Commerce Committee Republicans, led by Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and Committee Democrats, led by Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), today wrote to the heads of data broker companies, requesting information to help the Committee protect Americans’ data from misuse. They were joined by Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chair Morgan Griffith (R-VA) and Ranking Member Kathy Castor (D-FL), Subcommittee on Innovation, Data and Commerce Chair Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) and Ranking Member Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Subcommittee on Health Chair Brett Guthrie (R-KY) and Ranking Member Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA), and Subcommittee on Communications and Technology Chair Bob Latta (R-OH) and Ranking Member Doris Matsui (D-CA).  BACKGROUND:   The Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations launched a bipartisan investigation at a hearing on April 19, 2023, titled “Who is Selling Your Data: A Critical Examination of the Role of Data Brokers in the Digital Economy.”  Data brokers purchase, collect, aggregate, license, sell, or otherwise share a wide range of information from Americans, including but not limited to demographic, location, and health data.  These companies profit from trading in Americans’ personal information, including sensitive information, often with little government oversight and in some cases, without any concern for how buyers use the consumer data that they purchase from brokers.  A recent study from Duke University found, for example, that “some data brokers are marketing highly sensitive data on individuals’ mental health conditions on the open market, with seemingly minimal vetting of customers and seemingly few controls on the use of purchased data.”  KEY EXCERPT:   “American privacy concerns in the data broker industry are not new, and existing laws do not sufficiently protect Americans’ data from misuse. In 2014, the FTC issued a report recommending that Congress require data brokers to increase transparency and give Americans more control of their data. However, data brokers can easily circumvent existing rules and laws regarding the collection and sharing of certain types of data, such as HIPAA.   “Enacting a comprehensive federal privacy law is a top priority for the Committee on Energy and Commerce. Currently, Americans do not have control over whether and where their personal data is sold and shared; they have no guaranteed way to access, delete, or correct their data; and, they have no ability to stop the unchecked collection of their sensitive personal information. According to the Electronic Privacy Information Center, the overcollection and secondary uses of personal data, including the sale to and use by data brokers, are inconsistent with the reasonable expectations of online consumers and may lead to discriminatory targeting that violates the privacy and autonomy of consumers.”  The leaders asked the companies for information pertinent to helping the Committee understand how data brokers purchase, collect, use, license, and sell Americans’ data, including:  What data elements do you possess on Americans and market to your clients?   In particular, do you possess any of the following:  Americans’ health data? If yes, what kind of health data?  Americans’ location data? If yes, what data elements?  Americans’ phone data, such as data on any apps downloaded on their mobile devices? If yes, what data elements?  Information revealing Americans’ purchase history? If yes, what data elements?  Information about children under the age of 13?  Information about children between the ages of 13 and 18?  Are there any categories of Americans’ personal information that you will not purchase, collect, aggregate, license, or sell and, if so, what categories are those?  When you license, sell, or otherwise share Americans’ personal information with your clients, do you require your clients to disclose the purpose(s) for which they will use the data?   If so, what do you do, if anything, to confirm they are using the data for the stated purpose(s)?  How much money did you spend in each of the past five years on purchasing or licensing Americans’ personal information?  What percentage of your annual revenue for each of the past five years was derived from selling or licensing Americans’ personal information?  How many clients did you sell or license Americans’ personal information to?  Does your company use the personal information of Americans that you purchase, collect, or aggregate to categorize people based on income, sex, age, race, or other categories?  What steps, if any, does your company take to protect data of users under eighteen?  When you become aware that you or your clients have transferred Americans’ personal information to a foreign adversary or a company beholden to a foreign adversary—currently defined by the Secretary of Commerce to include China, Russia, North Korea, Cuba, the Maduro regime in Venezuela, and Iran—do you notify the individual(s) whose personal information has been transferred or any U.S. government entity? If not, why not?  You can view the letters below:  Acxiom LLC AtData Babel Street   CoreLogic Solutions, LLC   Epsilon Data Management, LLC Equifax   Experian   Gravy Analytics, Inc. Intelius, LLC Kochava Inc. LiveRamp, Inc. Mylife   Oracle America, Inc.   PeopleConnect, Inc.   RELX Safegraph Inc. Spokeo, Inc.   Thomson Reuters   TransUnion   Verisk Analytics   Whitepages, Inc.

May 9, 2023

Ahead of Pipeline Safety Reauthorization, Chairs Rodgers and Duncan Request Details From PHMSA Regarding its Pipeline Safety Programs

Washington, D.C. — House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and Subcommittee on Energy, Climate, and Grid Security Chair Jeff Duncan (R-SC) sent a letter to Tristan Brown, Acting Administrator for the Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). The letter, sent on behalf of the Energy, Climate, and Grid Security Subcommittee Republicans, requested details on the implementation of PHMSA’s pipeline safety programs to ensure America’s pipelines continue to transport natural gas, liquid fuels, and feedstocks across the country as safely, reliably, and efficiently as possible.   Excerpts and highlights from the letter:  “We write to request information regarding the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s (PHMSA) pipeline safety programs and the agency’s implementation of the Protecting Our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety (PIPES) Act of 2020 , in addition to other recently enacted laws. As you know, pipelines are among the safest and most efficient modes of transport for fuels and feedstocks that power our nation’s economy. PHMSA and the States must coordinate effectively to ensure the nation’s existing 3.3 million miles of pipelines are operated and maintained in a manner that is safe and reliable. PHMSA also has an important role to review proposals for new pipelines and liquified natural gas (LNG) facilities within a timely manner to modernize and upgrade the nation’s infrastructure, reduce costs, and improve the reliability of energy for the American people.     “As the Committee of jurisdiction overseeing your agency, the Energy and Commerce Committee and its members will exercise legislative and oversight authorities to ensure PHMSA complies with its statutory authorities and maintains focus on its public safety mission. As the Committee considers reauthorizing the nation’s pipeline safety laws, we are committed to ensuring that PHMSA and States that have assumed primary safety authority have the necessary resources to ensure the safe and efficient transportation of natural gas, liquid fuels, and feedstocks for manufacturing and agriculture. We are conducting a thorough review of existing pipeline safety laws and the status of their implementation. We are also reviewing recent safety incidents to ensure that PHMSA, State regulators, and pipeline operators are incorporating lessons learned, integrating new technologies, and continuing to improve safety.      “There are numerous overdue congressional mandates and open rulemakings that have not been finalized by PHMSA. We also understand that PHMSA has assumed new responsibilities and directives from recently enacted laws and Executive Orders, which may have delayed the implementation of the PIPES Act and outstanding mandates from prior pipeline safety laws.”  Chairs Rodgers and Duncan asked Acting Administrator Brown to provide the following information to help with the Committee’s review of PHMSA’s pipeline safety programs, particularly ahead of the pipeline safety reauthorization:   What is the status of PIPES Act implementation? Please provide a list of all overdue congressional mandates and outstanding regulations.  Please provide a list of all official meetings, working groups, and advisory committee meetings conducted on or after January 20, 2021, including a description of participants and a summary of events.  Please provide a list of all grants and awards issued by PHMSA since January 20, 2021, including the amount, the recipient, and the specific statutory authority authorizing such grant or award.  Please provide a list of all regulatory actions and enforcement proceedings conducted on or after January 20, 2021.   On April 21, 2023, President Biden signed an “Executive Order to Revitalize Our Nation’s Commitment to Environmental Justice for All,” requiring a “whole-of-government” approach to environmental justice. Does this Executive Order apply to PHMSA, and if so, how does PHMSA plan to comply with the Executive Order? Does PHMSA track criminal acts that damage pipelines? If so, please provide a list of all such acts on or after January 20, 2021.     Does PHMSA track criminal acts that damage pipelines? If so, please provide a list of all such acts on or after January 20, 2021.  On May 5, 2023, PHMSA proposed a new rule for gas pipeline leak detection and repair pursuant to Section 113 of the PIPES Act. By law, PHMSA is required to conduct a risk assessment and cost-benefit analysis, so all new regulations are cost-effective. Has PHMSA estimated the compliance costs of the proposed regulation? How much does PHMSA expect the proposed regulation will increase the price of natural gas for American consumers? How does PHMSA estimate environmental costs and benefits? Does PHMSA estimate environmental costs and benefits related to climate change that are incurred outside the United States for use in agency rulemakings? Does PHMSA utilize the Social Cost of Carbon, the Social Cost of Methane, or other tools or models to estimate environmental costs related to climate change? How does PHMSA define “equity benefits”, a term used in the May 5, 2023 proposal? Please describe PHMSA’s statutory authority and methodology for estimating “equity benefits” for use in agency rulemaking.     CLICK HERE to read the full letter.  

May 9, 2023
Press Release

Chairs Rodgers, Guthrie, and Griffith Statements on NIH Reinstating Previously Suspended Grant to EcoHealth Alliance for Risky Bat Research

Washington, D.C. — House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Subcommittee on Health Chair Brett Guthrie (R-VA), and Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chair Morgan Griffith (R-VA) issued the following statements after the National Institutes of Health (NIH) restored its grant to EcoHealth Alliance (EHA) that was previously suspended.  Chair Rodgers : “It’s beyond outrageous that NIH would restore funding to this taxpayer funded grant despite well-documented, egregious failures by EcoHealth to comply with grant requirements and NIH’s failure to conduct proper oversight of the grant. The Department of Health and Human Services and the NIH must explain to the American people why it would take this controversial and irresponsible action.”  Health Subcommittee Chair Guthrie : “EcoHealth Alliance not only has documented negligence, ignorance, and failures in following the rules of a taxpayer-funded grant, but also is the subject of a congressional investigation on its research with the Wuhan Institute of Virology. It is shocking and disappointing that the NIH is restoring a taxpayer-funded grant to EcoHealth Alliance. We’re going to get answers on behalf of the American people why their money is being awarded to EcoHealth Alliance.”  Oversight Subcommittee Chair Griffith : “It’s absolutely reckless that the NIH has renewed a grant for EcoHealth Alliance given their negligence and the breach of their contract with the NIH on the coronavirus research done at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. It is now believed likely that COVID-19 was the result of a lab incident at the Wuhan Institute.  “From my observations, EcoHealth Alliance has not been contrite about their failures. And even worse, they have refused to cooperate with Congress in our attempts to get information about the research they were doing at the Wuhan Institute.  “Until they can demonstrate a willingness to work with Congress to resolve outstanding questions and fulfill all of the terms of their federal contracts, paid for with American taxpayer dollars, all funding should remain suspended, and no new contracts should be awarded.”  In response to the announcement and previous testimony before Congress, Chair Rodgers, Guthrie, and Griffith, on behalf of the Health and Oversight Subcommittee Republicans, sent a letter to Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General Christi Grimm (HHS IG), asking for her office’s audit file which supported the decision not to recommend baring EHA from receiving NIH grants. The decision not to refer EHA for debarment, despite an HHS IG report detailing NIH’s failures to oversee the grant to EHA, is under investigation by the Committee.  You can read that letter here .  Additional Background:  January 2023 HHS OIG Report: The National Institutes of Health and EcoHealth Alliance Did Not Effectively Monitor Awards and Subawards, Resulting in Missed Opportunities to Oversee Research and Other Deficiencies  The HHS IG’S Key Findings:  “Despite identifying potential risks associated with research being performed under the EcoHealth awards, we found that NIH did not effectively monitor or take timely action to address EcoHealth's compliance with some requirements.”  “Although NIH and EcoHealth had established monitoring procedures, we found deficiencies in complying with those procedures limited NIH and EcoHealth's ability to effectively monitor Federal grant awards and subawards to understand the nature of the research conducted, identify potential problem areas, and take corrective action.”  Read the full report here .  Chair Rodgers: HHS’s OIG Report Confirms our Concerns with NIH’s Funding of EcoHealth Alliance  Key Quote: “The American people have a right to know what types of potentially risky research their tax dollars are funding. This OIG Report reaffirms many issues Energy and Commerce Republicans have continued to raise with NIH’s negligence in holding EcoHealth Alliance accountable to the terms of grant agreements. Furthermore, the report raises even more questions from the Committee about the apparent special treatment given to EcoHealth Alliance.”  Read more here .  October 2022 E&C Republicans to NIH: Why Resume Taxpayer-Supported Grant Funding to EcoHealth?  Key Quote: “The NIH has a responsibility to the American people to ensure research supported by taxpayer dollars is conducted with the highest standard of integrity, transparency, and safety. To that end, agency officials must answer why they are considering restoring funding to EcoHealth Alliance,” said Chairs Rodgers, Guthrie, and Griffith.  Read the full letter here . 

May 8, 2023
Letter - Energy

House and Senate Republican Energy Leaders Request that GAO Evaluate DOE’s Mismanagement of the SPR

Washington, D.C. — House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member John Barrasso (R-WY) today requested that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) evaluate the Department of Energy’s (DOE) mismanagement of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR), which has undermined America’s energy security and increased our reliance upon foreign energy sources. Excerpts and highlights below: “We write to request that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) evaluate the Department of Energy’s (DOE) management of the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) and conduct an audit of the SPR modernization program authorized by Section 404 of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015. DOE’s mismanagement of the SPR has undermined America’s energy security, leaving the nation more vulnerable to energy supply disruptions, and increasing the ability for OPEC and Russia to use energy as a geopolitical weapon. “Today, the SPR inventory is at the lowest level since 1983. Under President Biden, DOE has overseen the largest SPR drawdown in history, selling off more than 250 million barrels, equivalent to 42 percent of the reserve, with no credible plan to replenish the stockpile. DOE has failed to establish long-term plans for the optimal size, configuration, maintenance, and operational capabilities of the reserve. We are concerned that the rapid depletion of the SPR may have caused structural damage to the SPR’s pipelines and caverns, compromising its ability to meet its energy security mission in the event of a true energy supply disruption. The SPR consists of subterranean salt caverns filled with oil, and a complex system of wells, pipelines, and pumps that use water and brine to direct the flow of oil to where it is needed. Each drawdown has the potential to degrade the SPR’s storage and distribution capabilities, as pressurization, corrosion, and consequences of repeated use erode the SPR’s physical integrity. “In 2015, Congress required DOE to conduct a long-term strategic review of the SPR and authorized an investment of $1.4 billion to conduct a SPR modernization program. We were disappointed to learn that the modernization program, known as Life Extension II, has been put on hold by DOE, resulting in critical delays and cost overruns. DOE also recently created new rules, without Congressional authorization, for ‘fixed-price’ purchases of crude oil, rather than conventional purchase contracts. The failure of DOE to secure contracts to purchase oil under the new ‘fixed-price’ bidding scheme raises serious questions about DOE’s replenishment strategy and the ability of the SPR to protect the American consumers and the economy in times of emergency. “Given the concerns identified and the importance of the SPR as an energy security asset, we request that the GAO conduct a programmatic audit of the SPR modernization program, including the status and budget of the Life Extension II program, and other relevant programs relating to SPR operations, maintenance, modernization, and acquisition and sales relating to the reserve.” Members asked GAO to address the following questions in their final audit report: Has the Biden administration conducted a long-term strategic review of the SPR, and if so, is the review adequate to inform decision making and protect the nation from energy supply disruptions in both current and future scenarios? What damage and increased maintenance requirements, including well remediation, cavern closure, and both pipeline and pump replacements, have resulted from the recent drawdowns? What physical or cybersecurity threats are there to the SPR facilities? How thorough are DOE’s studies and assessments of the SPR’s structural integrity? Has the DOE developed an adequate plan for replenishing the SPR? If so, please explain. CLICK HERE to read the full letter.

May 5, 2023
Letter - Health

E&C Republicans Press CDC for Information Related to Reorganization Plan

CDC Must Provide Information from Internal Audit Before Requesting More Authority from Congress Washington, D.C. — House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Subcommittee on Health Chair Brett Guthrie (R-KY), and Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chair Morgan Griffith (R-VA) today sent a letter to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky, requesting information related to its efforts to its Moving Forward Initiative . The letter, sent on behalf of the Republican members of the subcommittees, also serves as a notice to preserve all documents and communications regarding the effort.  KEY EXCERPTS:   “As you have publicly acknowledged, the CDC’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic response has been widely criticized. From early pandemic test kit failures to the revelation that teachers’ unions were provided an opportunity to opine on and revise the CDC’s school reopening guidance, the CDC committed multiple unforced errors during the COVID-19 response. More recently, the CDC’s insistence that children as young as three years old continue to receive COVID-19 shots and wear masks has made it an outlier among global public health agencies. In short, CDC has lost the American people’s trust. ”  […]  “ The CDC must provide the Committee with more than a cursory, summarized overview of the findings of the Moving Forward Initiative before the Committee can even begin to consider the agency’s request for additional authority. According to principles for government reorganization recommended by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Congress ‘has an important role to play in both its legislative and oversight capacities in establishing, monitoring, and maintaining both governmentwide and agency-specific management reforms.’ This Committee has serious reservations regarding CDC’s approach to public engagement, stakeholder outreach, and information gathering during the Moving Forward Initiative . The CDC has been rightly criticized in the past for its insular culture and lack of transparency. To restore public trust and implement effective reforms, the agency must be more forthcoming to this Committee, Congress, and the American people.”  KEY FACTS AND BACKGROUND:   Timeline : The CDC is currently implementing its Moving Forward Initiative , which it started in April 2022 but did not publicly announce until August 2022.  Structure : The Moving Forward Initiative appears to consist of two parallel reviews with a resulting reorganization of the agency based on the reviews’ findings.   The first review, titled the Scientific and Programmatic Review , focused on identifying methods “to improve and institutionalize how CDC develops and deploys its science, both in pandemic and non-emergency times.”   The second, titled the Structural Review , sought to “gather feedback on the agency’s current processes, systems, and structure and solicit suggestions for strategic change, with a strong focus on the agency’s core capabilities.”  Lack of Transparency : The CDC conducted the Moving Forward Initiative largely in secret.   The public notice and comment period was only open for 10 days and resulted in just three submitted public comments.  The CDC appears to have only held one public meeting at which the initiative was discussed.  In contrast with the small amount of public input allowed by the CDC, the Scientific and Programmatic Review included approximately 120 interviews with internal CDC leadership, staff, and unidentified external partners presumably solicited by the CDC for input.  Similarly, the Structural Review included more than 50 internal interviews.  None of the interviews conducted during the reorganization have been made public, nor has the CDC publicly revealed the outside stakeholders it consulted during the Moving Forward Initiative .   To date, the CDC has made public only two short summaries of the reviews’ findings.  Taken together, those summaries total eight pages.   Resulting Action : CDC is undertaking a large-scale reorganization.  The Federal Register notice announcing the reorganization—one of the few public documents outlining any details on the effort—states the reorganization eliminated 20 different offices, divisions, and centers while creating 16 new entities within the agency.  Most notably, the reorganization appears to expand greatly the size and power of the Office of the Director at the expense of the agency’s national centers.  Request for Additional Authority : Beyond structural changes, the CDC is using its findings of the Moving Forward Initiative to justify its request to Congress for additional authority to, among other things, mandate data reporting from state, local, territorial, and tribal (SLTT) public health agencies.  This authority would dramatically change the nature of CDC’s relationship with its SLTT partners from one based on the principles of cooperative federalism to one where CDC can compel SLTT agencies to hand over individualized public health data.   To date, CDC has not articulated any restrictions on how it would exercise the requested data authority.   CDC’s past data collection practices suggest the agency would use such authority on matters totally outside of CDC’s core mission.  CLICK HERE to read the letter.