By CASEY HARPER
THE CENTER SQUARE SENIOR REPORTER
(The Center Square) — The U.S. Department of Energy received billions of taxpayer dollars via a string of major federal spending bills, but now lawmakers are raising concerns about waste, fraud and abuse.
A watchdog report of the agency found “risks of insufficient federal staffing, potential conflicts of interest, recipient fraud, and inadequate internal controls, among others” that led to this waste in the Inflation Reduction Act and other legislation.
House Energy and Commerce Chair Cathay McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., announced a subcommittee hearing this week to look more into the issue.
House Oversight Republicans are interested as well. Chair James Comer, R-Ky., and subcommittee chair Pat Fallon, R-Texas, announced an investigation into the DOE. They sent a letter to Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm calling for transparency and accountability in the form of documentation.
“According to a DOE Office of Inspector General (OIG) report detailing DOE’s management challenges for Fiscal Year 2023, the department’s budget ‘will grow from managing a $45.3 billion budget in fiscal year 2022 to $100 billion of appropriated funds and $336 billion in loan authorities’ in fiscal year 2023,” the letter said. “The OIG states, ‘[t]hese are historic and unprecedented times at the Department of Energy’ and warns about ‘a greatly increased risk of fraud, waste, and mismanagement.’”
Even with that funding, energy prices have spiked since President Joe Biden took office. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics energy index rose 5.5% in the past 12 months.
Gas prices hit record highs last summer, surpassing a national average of more than $5 per gallon of regular unleaded gasoline. Prices have declined since then, but are expected to rise again later this year.
Last week President Joe Biden came under fire from the oil and gas industry for his policies on drilling. A collection of 25 oil and gas groups released a public better supporting a Republican bill to loosen regulations and blasting the Biden administration’s work on the issue.
“Biden Administration actions and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) have enacted further red tape, higher costs and permitting obstacles that serve as barriers to efficient and timely production in response to national and global demand,” the letter said. “As a result, American oil and natural gas producers have been hindered from producing up to three million barrels of oil a day, a government imposed scarcity that has created high costs for citizens and instability in relation to our adversaries in China and Russia.”
Casey Harper works at The Center Square’s Washington, D.C., bureau.