March 06, 2017

Wyden, McCaskill, Markey Call on Energy Secretary Perry to Hold Contractors Accountable for Whistleblower Retaliation

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., today called on the Department of Energy’s new secretary, Rick Perry, to immediately reinstate rules to hold contractors accountable for retaliating against whistleblowers who report nuclear safety violations.

In a letter to Perry today, the senators noted the Department of Energy’s (DOE) “long history” of failing to protect against a culture of retaliation and intimidation against whistleblowers at DOE. Recent examples were well documented in a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report from July, which GAO prepared for the three senators. The report also included a recommendation from the GAO that the DOE expedite these regulations to hold contractors accountable for whistleblower retaliation.

In December, the Department of Energy (DOE) published the final contractor accountability rules. But in January, the incoming Trump Administration suspended them.

“Whistleblowers at DOE have exposed substantial waste, fraud and abuse, as well as prevented serious safety violations across the DOE complex. That DOE contractors have retaliated against these whistleblowers is well documented. What’s missing is DOE’s willingness to do something to reverse the culture of retaliation among its contractors and to demand accountability,” Wyden, McCaskill and Markey wrote in the letter today.

“After failing for years to close a regulatory chasm that prevented the DOE from fully using its nuclear safety authority to protect whistleblowers, including the use of civil penalties, DOE finally did so in December, only to then suspend them a month later. We request that you immediately lift this suspension and reinstate these rules.”

In response to the GAO report, Wyden, McCaskill and Markey also introduced the Department of Energy Whistleblower Accountability Act in September to expand protections for whistleblowers at DOE.  In addition to showing disregard for, and retaliation against, whistleblowers by Energy Department contractors was widespread, the report also showed DOE did little to monitor or stop those abuses.

Read the letter here.

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