Three weeks after his treatment of colleagues came under harsh fire from a report by his commission’s inspector general and two weeks after he was grilled by the House Energy Subcommittee on the Environment, Nuclear Regulatory Commissioner Gregory Jaczko looms large as the next likeliest official to exit the Obama administration.
Jaczko, who worked as a science adviser to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid before assuming the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) helm, has been working assiduously on one of his old boss’s cherished causes: ending the Department of Energy’s program for a nuclear waste repository at the Yucca Mountain in Nevada. Backed by President Obama (who fully supports Nevada Democrat Reid in moving the repository to a site other than Yucca), Jaczko issued a directive that stopped an NRC evaluation of the Yucca project. As a result of the lack of supporting data, work on the project was ordered to halt by Jaczko—in effect, doing the bidding of Reid and Obama.
This led to to the recent and highly critical report on Jaczko by NRC Inspector General Hubert Bell. Two weeks ago, Bell testified before the environment subcommittee that Jaczko abused his legal authority by deliberately withholding key decision-making information from fellow commissioners and intentionally blocking issues for resolution that were long overdue.
“It appears that Chairman Jaczko has let politics trump science here, that he’s manipulated the process,” Rep. and subcommittee member Joe Pitts (R.-Pa.) told HUMAN EVENTS. “He’s misled some of the fellow commissioners about the consequences of the actions that were taken, and I think the credibility of the NRC has been damaged. Its reputation has been damaged. There’s some real serious questions about the agency’s independence and scientific integrity.”
Pitts stopped short of demanding Jaczko’s resignation. But it is quite clear from his tone and the conclusions of the inspector general’s report that this is only the beginning of what could easily be a controversial Obama appointee twisting slowly in the wind.
The particular criticism that the Obama-named NRC chairman appeared to operate independently and not inform colleagues on the panel is not unique among the President’s appointees to important regulatory bodies. Just last week, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) voted 3 to 1 for new rules on workplace elections favored by organized labor, including reducing the period before elections from a current median time of 37 days to as few as 10 days. The three Democratic members voting for the rules change (which severely limits the response time for business) did so by communicating through staff “and never brought [Republican appointee Brian] Hayes into the discussion, as he noted in his dissent,” said former NLRB Chairman Peter Schaumber.
Given the behavior of the NLRB majority and now Jaczko at the NRC, one has to ask, whatever happened to the President’s vow of a transparent administration?