Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who chairs the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, says the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has implemented a “controversial and obstructive new policy” that restricts the information flow to Congress.
Boxer’s panel oversees NRC. In a Nov. 26 letter, the California lawmaker said she is “deeply concerned” about the new NRC approach to sharing information with Congress.
The letter echoes many of the same concerns Boxer voiced at the opening of a Senate oversight hearing on NRC days earlier. The hearing, however, had to be suspended before any NRC commissioners had a chance to testify.
An NRC representative said the commission would have no public comment at this time, but would communicate with Sen. Boxer directly.
“This policy is a radical departure from previous NRC document policies and creates significant hurdles and delays that can be used to withhold information entirely from the Chairs and Ranking Members of Congress,” Boxer said in the Nov. 26 letter to NRC Chairman Allison Macfarlane.
The policy also allows NRC “to broadly deny information to individual Members of Congress, even when the information is related to matters affecting their home states,” Boxer added. “NRC has additionally attempted to justify this new policy through claims that it needs to do so in order to protect against the public release of sensitive materials, even though these claims are not supported by either case law or Department of Justice guidance documents,” Boxer said in the letter.
“It is clear that the changes to the NRC policy work against the interests of Congress and attempt to undercut constitutional oversight,” Boxer said. “I call on the NRC to cease its efforts to circumvent Congress’ oversight responsibility to oversee the NRC,” Boxer said.
Boxer asserts that the new policy removes the rights of most senators “to receive sensitive documents at all.” Further, NRC policy has gone from one “that generally presumes that sensitive documents will be provided to Congressional requesters to one that generally presumes that they will not.”
The NRC’s new policy directs NRC staff to try to limit the documents provided, even to oversight committee chairs and the committee’s ranking member of the minority party, Boxer said. The document restriction to Senate committee officials even seems to apply to documents that have been subject to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, the lawmaker added.