New Energy Secretary Rick Perry should immediately reinstate rules that would help the Department of Energy hold its contractors, including at Hanford, accountable for retaliation against whistleblowers, say three Democratic senators.
The administration of former President Obama issued regulations in late December 2016 making clear that DOE retaliation against whistleblowers for raising nuclear safety concerns was a violation of nuclear safety laws.
DOE would be able to assess civil penalties against contractors and subcontractors for retaliating against employees who report violations of the law, mismanagement, waste, abuse or dangerous or unsafe workplace conditions.
One of the first actions of President Trump’s administration was to halt the implementation of the regulations, according to a letter from Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., sent this week to Perry.
The letter also was signed by Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., and Sen. Claire McCaskill, the ranking member on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
Whistleblowers at DOE have exposed substantial waste, fraud and abuse, as well as prevented serious safety violations across the DOE complex.
Letter from Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and others
The new whistleblower regulations had been in place just a month when DOE published a notice saying they were being suspended until March 22.
The senators asked Perry to immediately reinstate the new rules.
DOE concluded in 2013 that its regulations did not cover enforcement in cases of unlawful retaliation, according to a Government Accountability Office report released in July 2016.
DOE started working on new regulations, including the use of civil penalties for contractors who retaliate, after the GAO report was released.
“Whistleblowers at DOE have exposed substantial waste, fraud and abuse, as well as prevented serious safety violations across the DOE complex,” the senators said in the letter to Perry.
Cases of contractor retaliation are well-documented, they said.
“What’s missing is DOE’s willingness to do something to reverse the culture of retaliation among its contractors and to demand accountability,” they said.