Ag Policy Blog

Federal Official Faces Contempt on WOTUS

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Staff Reporter
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A federal official is in hot water with Congress, facing contempt charges for not providing the House Oversight Committee with documents and other information requested as part of an investigation into the promulgation of the waters of the United States rule, otherwise known as WOTUS.

The committee recommended last week that Howard Shelanski, administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, be found in contempt of Congress by the U.S. House of Representatives after House Oversight Committee leaders claim he failed to cooperate with the investigation into the WOTUS rulemaking.

Being in contempt of Congress can carry a maximum $100,000 fine and a maximum one year in federal prison. However, Congress often uses the threat of contempt to compel government officials to cooperate with committee investigations.

The committee has been examining what role the OIRA played in developing the rule now on hold nationally pending an ongoing legal case in federal court. Members of the committee have been pressing Shelanski for information since early 2015, according to a news release on the committee website, http://1.usa.gov/….

DTN/Progressive Farmer has filed Freedom of Information Act requests with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regarding the WOTUS rulemaking process - some dating back to March 2015. Those have gone unanswered.

“The documents and communications covered by the subpoena are central to the committee’s investigation of the controversial WOTUS rulemaking process,” according to the proposed resolution. “WOTUS expanded the Clean Water Act’s purview and raised enforcement concerns, as well as state sovereignty considerations.

“Mr. Shelanski’s unwillingness and inability to work in good faith to comply with the subpoena interfered with the committee’s investigation. Mr. Shelanski and his staff are withholding key documents from the committee -- the volume of which is unknown except to OIRA, because Mr. Shelanski and his staff refused to provide basic information about the universe of responsive documents.

“Having exhausted all available options for obtaining compliance, the chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform recommends that the House of Representatives find Howard Shelanski in contempt for his failure to comply with the subpoena issued to him.”

According to the committee website, Shelanski was first asked on March 3, 2015, to provide documents related to WOTUS. On May 12, 2015, the committee sent a letter to Shelanski asking again for the information. Shelanski did not provide all the documents requested and was subpoenaed by the committee on July 14, 2015. The committee sent a letter to Shelanski on Oct. 28, 2015, about the failure to comply. The committee issued a final letter to Shelanski on May 18, 2016.

“To date, OIRA has made eight limited productions to the committee from only a six-month period (of the six-year rule making process). Of the 7,623 pages produced, 73% (or 5,163 pages) of those are duplicates, including 23 copies of the rule itself and six copies of the rule’s economic analysis. Further, 990 pages of the documents produced to date are already publicly available,” according to the May 2016 letter.

Read the draft resolution here: http://1.usa.gov/…

Read the May 18, 2016 letter to Shelanski here: http://1.usa.gov/…

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Comments

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BDukowitz1375121425
6/22/2016 | 7:13 AM CDT
Obummerism, at its finest. Hillaryism, well entrenched already.
tvogel1631578587
6/21/2016 | 8:07 PM CDT
Nothing will happen to this guy. Subpoenas and contempt of Congress mean nothing today. He will go his merry way and nothing will change. The EPA will implement WOTUS as they so desire and Congress will be loathe to do anything. They are completely useless at this point.