5 Things To Know | EPA Unit Blocks Independent Investigations

This week, the inspector general’s office from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) accused a small unit within the agency of operating illegally as a “rogue law enforcement agency” that has been blocking independent investigations of the EPA for years. Here are the top five things you should know about the unit and the investigation.

  1. What Is The Office Of Homeland Security Within The EPA? As explained by the Associated Press, the Office of Homeland Security (OHS) is a small unit, only about ten employees, that is run by the administration’s political staff.
  2. Why Is OHS Being Accused Of Acting As A “Rogue Law Enforcement Agency”? Patrick Sullivan, the assistant inspector general at the EPA, wrote in prepared testimony for a congressional hearing that “the Office of Homeland Security has repeatedly rebuffed and refused to cooperate with the OIG’s ongoing requests for information or cooperation.” By being uncooperative the OHS has impeded Office of Inspector General (OIG) investigations. The inspector general’s office is a nonpartisan, watchdog group within a government agency to conduct audits and make sure that the agency is not being fraudulent or wasteful. However, according to the Washington Post, the OHS “has been the primary contact [with the FBI] on all investigations with a connection to national security.”
  3. When Did The Clash Between The OHS And OIG Start? Things became difficult between the two groups at the EPA over the investigation of a fraudulent employee. John C. Beale, an EPA employee, lied about working for the CIA and received nearly $900,000 in unearned EPA salary and bonuses. According to Sullivan’s testimony, “prior to EPA officials contacting the OIG about the situation, OHS conducted its own investigation. The OHS’ actions, which included several interviews with Mr. Beale, damaged the OIG’s subsequent investigation.”
  4. Does The OHS Have The Authority To Conduct Investigations? No. According to Sullivan’s testimony, “The OHS has absolutely no statutory authority to conduct investigations and no law enforcement authority. Nor does the Administrator’s memorandum authorize OHS to take investigatory actions.”
  5. What Happens Next? No final decisions have been made, and the investigation is expected to continue through a third-party. The House Oversight Committee held a hearing this morning to address the allegations raised by the OIG and hear testimony from EPA officials, while the Associated Press writes “Both the IG’s office and the EPA’s lawyers have requested a third-party investigation into that incident by the Federal Protective Service, part of the Homeland Security Department.”

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