Democratic News

Congress created the Propane Education and Research Council (PERC) and the National Oilheat Research Alliance (NORA) to develop programs and projects that provide research and development, enhance consumer and employee safety and training and provide consumer education about propane and heating oil.  Since the establishment of PERC and NORA, these organizations have collected millions of dollars in assessments from consumers to meet the objectives of the law.
 
Based on the published budgets and minutes of both organizations, Chairman Bingaman became concerned about the way these Congressionally-created programs were spending some of the money it had raised.  Specifically, Bingaman was surprised by how little funding was actually being spent on research by these organizations.  Additionally, he wondered if the two Congressionally-authorized programs had paid for lobbying Congress and politically affiliated groups when the underlying bills contained language forbidding such expenditures.
 
As an original co-sponsor of the legislation which created PERC, and as the committee’s ranking Democrat when NORA was authorized, Bingaman knows exactly what Congress intended for these organizations and the statutory requirements under which these entities must operate.  He asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate the management and implantation of these programs, and to review the role and involvement of Federal agencies that are supposed to oversee these entities and their programs.  That GAO report, released today, contains worrying conclusions.
 
(Note to Reporters: Staff familiar with these programs are available to answer questions; please don’t be bashful about calling.  Sen. Bingaman is chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources.)
 
Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM)
 
GAO Review Finds Spending Problems
With Propane, Heating Oil Programs
 
“This GAO report raises good questions about Federal oversight of these programs.   It also identifies troubling problems about how PERC and NORA may have abused the law, in part by misusing money to pay for lobbying.
 
“I was involved, as a co-sponsor or as the ranking Democrat on the committee, with the bills that created these programs, so I know both Congressional intent and statutory requirements.  When we get back next month, our committee will look closely at these problems.  Congress must consider these issues carefully when making decisions about the re-authorization of NORA and the on-going nature of PERC.”
 
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