Democrats on the Environment and Public Works Committee including Sens. Tom Carper, D-Delaware; Ben Cardin, D-Maryland; Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island; and Chris Van Hollen, D-Maryland, sent a letter Jan. 10 to Environmental Protection Agency Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler asking for details about the tapping of furloughed EPA employees and redirection of resources toward preparing for the acting administrator’s nomination hearing while the agency is shut down.

The senators expressed concern that, while the agency shutdown has halted or delayed EPA’s critical work across the country, EPA could be diverting resources for the Acting Administrator’s nomination hearing, which could be in violation of EPA’s shutdown contingency plan and the Antideficiency Act.

“The majority of EPA employees have been furloughed without pay since Dec. 29, 2018,” the senators wrote. “The consequences of the shutdown on public health and the environment include the slow-down or cessation of clean-up work at hundreds of toxic Superfund sites across the country, a halt in most EPA inspection and enforcement activities, and a stop to new chemical and pesticide safety evaluations and approvals. It is difficult to understand how preparing you for next week’s confirmation hearing credibly falls within any of the categories listed in EPA’s Contingency Plan, particularly the category of employee that is ‘necessary to protect life and property.’”

“Using EPA resources in this manner may also run afoul of the Antideficiency Act. More disturbingly, if EPA is diverting resources that are intended to be used to ‘protect life and property’ to prepare you for your confirmation hearing, the already-dire consequences of the shutdown on public health and the environment could be even greater,” the senators wrote.

A PDF of the letter can be found at bit.ly/2FlqMQv.