Cheney snubs House investigation of environmental meddling
Cheney doesn't reply to environmental invite
Members of the Bush administration will be called upon Tuesday to explain decisions on environmental policy that were apparently guided by politics -- not science -- during a House Natural Resources Committee hearing.
The hearing won't include the official environmentalists believe to be most responsible for the political meddling -- Vice President Dick Cheney. The vice president was invited to testify at the hearing in the wake of revelations that he reached far down into the federal environmental bureaucracy to influence decision-making, but he did not respond to the invitation.
"We don't expect him to show up to testify," Resources Committee spokeswoman Heather Warren told RAW STORY.
Tuesday morning's hearing was requested last month after the Washington Post printed a lengthy, four-part series on Cheney, tracing his expansion of vice-presidential power over the last six-and-a-half years.
Three dozen Democrats requested the hearing after a Washington Post series revealed Cheney's involvement in the administration's decision to cut water flows in Oregon's Klamath River. That decision led to the deaths of 64,000 adult salmon, including dozens of federally protected wild coho salmon, and devastated the commercial fishing industry in the Pacific Northwest.
Environmentalists say Tuesday's review is long overdue because the Resources Committee was dormant in its oversight role when Republicans controlled Congress. West Virginia Democrat Nick Rahall is now the committee chairman.
"I've never seen oversight hearings like Mr. Rahall is starting ... being able to demonstrate how politics overtly influenced what were supposed to be scientifically grounded outcomes for (Endangered Species Act) decisions," former Fish and Wildlife Service head Jamie Rappaport Clark told RAW STORY. Clark, who served during the Clinton administration, now serves as executive vice president of environmental group Defenders of Wildlife.
Among the witnesses scheduled to appear Tuesday is Mike Kelly, a former government biologist who has said previously that political concerns trumped science in the Klamath decision.
According to his prepared opening statement, Kelly will tell the committee that "someone higher in the administration" instructed his team of scientists to write a report that would support the decision to divert water from the Klamath.
"I viewed it as a somewhat complicated case of 1+1=2. Regardless of what I found in my analysis, it would have to make sense and satisfy the legal requirements ... under the ESA, and certainly no political pressure could magically change that," Kelley says. "I never suspected that I would be asked to support the conclusion that 1+1=3, but I was."