Lawmakers talk WVU, EPA, grant concerns

WASHINGTON – The Environmental Protection Agency, a former West Virginia University president and spending money on nothing were among issues taken up this week by West Virginia’s congressional delegation.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., has welcomed the return of E. Gordon Gee, former president of Ohio State University, as interim president at West Virginia University. Gee will serve until a president is hired to succeed Jim Clements, who is leaving WVU to become president of Clemson University.

Gee was president of WVU from 1981 to 1985. He was president of Ohio State from 1990 to 1997, then returned to Ohio State in October 2007 and served until June when he was ousted after making disparaging comments about Catholics.

“I’m joining with members in the West Virginia University community in offering E. Gordon Gee a warm welcome back to the state as president of WVU,” Rockefeller said. “As governor, I worked closely with him over a number of years and he brings a wealth of experience from a diverse and prestigious number of institutions of higher learning. I’m looking forward to working with him again as he advances the school’s mission over the next several months.”

Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-2nd, said she introduced the Listen to Americans First Act because the EPA has ignored requests to hold public meetings on coal regulations in West Virginia, but EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy is in China Monday to talk about greenhouse gas standards.

The act, House Resolution 3684, prohibits taxpayer dollars spent on foreign travel by the EPA administrator until a public listening session is held in each of the states that generated the highest percentage of electricity from coal in 2012.

The EPA has held 11 sessions, none in the 10 states that generated the highest percentage of electricity from coal, Capito said.

“While the administration may think they can ignore the voices of heartland Americans, this important legislation will remind the administration that all Americans deserve a voice, not just those in cities such as San Francisco, Seattle and New York City,” she said.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., with Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., introduced the Grants Oversight and New Efficiency Act, dubbed the G.O.N.E. Act, legislation intended to prevent federal government spending on nothing.

The bill closes thousands of expired grant accounts costing the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.

The act would require agencies to close out expired, empty grant accounts and why those accounts were never closed in the first place, Manchin said.

The Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency would be required to report to Congress and agency heads about expired and empty grant accounts that must be closed within six months after the report is submitted.

Agencies afterward would be required to update the council within three months on whether the grant accounts were closed. For accountability, the council would submit a follow-up report on the status of the closures, Manchin said.

“It is truly remarkable how much our great nation can save if our federal government cuts the fat and not the muscle from many of our programs, especially ones that are no longer serving the American people,” Manchin said. “Our taxpayer dollars should be spent on programs and grant opportunities that actually support the people who we as Americans value most – including our children, veterans and seniors – not on administering empty grant accounts that help nobody.”

The Washington Post has reported $890,000 was spent on service fees for bank accounts that are empty, Manchin said. More than 13,700 accounts with a balance of zero exist, he said.