Democratic News

Watch Sen. Cantwell’s opening statement here.

Washington, D.C. – Today, Ranking Member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) questioned Susan Beard’s would-be approach to maintaining worker safety while cleaning up nuclear waste at the Hanford site in Washington. Beard is nominated to serve as the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Inspector General.

This isn’t about publishing a report. This is about getting results," Sen. Cantwell said. “How would you address the fact that a lot of worker safety issues have been in previous reports, but we haven’t created the culture to address all of them?”

Beard responded, “I agree with you that issuing all the reports in the world does not make a difference if action isn’t taken on them. … If I am confirmed, I would like to take a more robust approach to making sure that … the department is taking corrective action on recommendations that are made."

The role of the inspector general, in any agency, is a great responsibility and requires an impartial representative with integrity. The DOE’s inspector general is tasked with oversight of a $30 billion budget, maintaining and safeguarding our nuclear secrets and arsenal, cleaning up some of the most hazardously contaminated places on earth, and conducting cutting-edge research and development at the distant edges of scientific understanding.

The job calls for someone with both integrity and demonstrated ability, someone who is familiar with the department’s many programs but who can still maintain her independence from the agency," Sen. Cantwell said. “The inspector general must be able to identify the department’s failings, recommend corrective actions and ensure progress is being made to correct problems.”

“I believe Ms. Beard has good credentials. She knows the Department of Energy. She has spent the past 27 years as an attorney in the General Counsel’s Office at the Department of Energy," Sen. Cantwell said. “She has demonstrated good integrity and legal capabilities that job requires."

Nominated by President Obama in April, Beard is currently serving as the assistant general counsel at the DOE, where she has spent 27 years of her career. For nearly 20 of those years, Beard has managed the DOE’s ethics program. Prior to joining DOE, Beard worked as an attorney for the Federal Election Commission and in the private sector.

Read Sen. Cantwell’s full statement below:

“Thank you, Madam Chairman, for scheduling this hearing. And thank you, Ms. Beard, for your willingness to serve in this capacity as inspector general for the Department of Energy.

“The role of the inspector general, as my colleague has said, is a very important role in any agency. But an inspector general is charged with the task in this particular agency with the prevention and detection of fraud and abuse in its programs and operations; it is key.

“This responsibility is especially great in an agency like the Department of Energy:

•     with its $30 billion budget,

•     its responsibility for maintaining and safeguarding our nuclear arsenal,

•     for preserving our nuclear secrets,

•     for cleaning up some of the most hazardously contaminated places on earth, and

•     for conducting cutting-edge research and development at the distant edges of scientific understanding.

“The job calls for someone with both integrity and demonstrated ability, who is familiar with the department’s many programs but can still maintain her independence from the agency.

“The inspector general must be able to identify the department’s failings, recommend corrective actions and ensure progress is being made to correct problems. This is something that I will touch on in my questions.

“This is especially important to me and to the state of Washington, because we have a long history of leaking nuclear waste tanks, missed cleanup deadlines and workers being exposed to toxic vapors at Hanford.

“The former inspector general has well documented many of these in past reports. But I will be looking for assurances that we will be able to hold the department accountable and will ensure that it meets its cleanup responsibilities and protects its workers. As you probably know, we have a tri-party agreement with the state of Washington and DOE on meeting these deadlines.

“I believe Ms. Beard has good credentials. She knows the Department of Energy. She has spent the past 27 years as an attorney in the General Counsel’s Office at the Department of Energy.

“As the department’s designated ethics official, she has been responsible for administering the Ethics in Government Act within the department and guarding against conflicts of interest. 

“She has demonstrated good integrity and legal capabilities that the job requires. I will also be looking forward to questioning about what vigilant watchdog role she can play in holding this very important agency accountable.

“Thank you very much for your willingness to serve."