GOP probes feds’ meeting with greens on Minn. mining project

By Nidhi Prakash (E&E News)

House Republicans are investigating a planned meeting between Interior Department officials and environmental groups in 2021 to discuss mining near Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

Earlier this year, the Biden administration blocked new mining on 225,000 acres in the Superior National Forest for 20 years in part to protect the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. The administration had already canceled leases for the proposed Twin Metals copper and nickel mining project.

In a Monday letter to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and Bureau of Land Management Director Tracy Stone-Manning, Republicans on the Natural Resources Committee requested information on the administration’s decision and discussions between high-level staff — including then-Interior Deputy Secretary Tommy Beaudreau — and The Wilderness Society.

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US Finally Suspends Funding to Wuhan Institute of Virology

Released HHS memo suspends and proposes debarment of Wuhan lab.

July 26, 2023

(Washington, DC) – Last week, the House of Representatives Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic released a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) memo stating it had suspended U.S. government funding to the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) effective immediately. WIV is the biological research facility in Wuhan, China, that is suspected to have leaked the virus that caused the COVID-19 pandemic. It had received U.S. money through a subgrant from EcoHealth Alliance, a New York City-based non-profit that conducts research on pathogens dangerous to humans.

In January 2023, the HHS Office of Inspector General issued an audit report on.  a 2014 grant EcoHealth had received from the National Institute of Health (NIH). The report faulted EcoHealth for not properly monitoring a sub-award of nearly $600,000 to WIV that included work to create hybrid bat coronaviruses in order to study the potential of wild viruses to infect humans.

In April 2020, amidst allegations that WIV was Ground Zero for COVID-19, the NIH terminated the grant to EcoHealth. Despite the audit report, in May 2023, EcoHealth received a new grant from the NIH, with the stipulation that no research could be conducted in China or with animals.

HHS has now reconsidered its renewal. According to the memo, after the WIV had repeatedly disregarded requests for “required materials to support its research,” the NIH concluded it was “undisputed” that “WIV research likely violated protocols of the NIH regarding biosafety.” As a result, HHS determined that there is now sufficient evidence in the record to disbar the WIV, saying “immediate action is necessary to protect the public interest.” The WIV has not received any federal funding since 2020 and now has 30 days to respond to the notice. HHS may permanently bar WIV from U.S. government grants.

Peter McGinnis, spokesman for FGI, issued the following statement:

“Since the start of the pandemic, multiple federal investigations and research studies have tried to determine whether the Wuhan lab was responsible. With this memo, there is now undeniable evidence that the WIV was conducting coronavirus research while clearly disregarding the necessary biosafety requirements. FGI applauds the Biden administration’s decision to suspend and hopefully bar the Wuhan lab from any future federal funding. But now the question we must ask is, why did it take so long?”

FGI Files Suit Against ED for Records on Critical Race Theory

To what extent has the Department of Education been pushing CRT onto American children in schools?

June 21, 2023

(Washington, DC) – Today, the Functional Government Initiative (FGI) announced a transparency lawsuit against the Department of Education (ED) for withholding records regarding communication amongst senior ED personnel about critical race theory (CRT).

In June 2022, FGI filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Education Department for records from top department political appointees regarding CRT. After nearly a year, the department has failed to turn over any records, prompting FGI to file suit to obtain them.

CRT is a highly controversial academic theory developed on college campuses in the 1970s that asserts racism has been embedded in legal systems and policies, economic markets, and education. It has migrated from higher education into public policy and even primary education, causing divides in classrooms and among policymakers. As of January 2021, 42 states have introduced bills or taken steps to ban CRT from the classroom, with 18 states actually imposing those bans.

In April 2021, the Biden Administration proposed a new rule from the department that would have changed how grants were awarded to schools. The proposal stated that preference in grant decisions would go to schools that included in their curricula information from the “1619 Project,” a divisive interpretation of American history by the New York Times that propagates CRT. After significant pushback, the department walked back the proposed rule.

But when Florida recently adopted education initiatives that included curtailing CRT in curricula, Secretary Cardona said they were the “opposite of what we need for our children,” apparently an endorsement of CRT by ED. The records it has refused to produce would allow the public to know the extent of the Education Department’s efforts to promote CRT. Its refusal to comply with FOIA only heightens suspicions.

Peter McGinnis, spokesman for FGI, issued the following statement:

“CRT has become one of the most divisive topics in America. It claims to foster a better understanding of a volatile issue yet has only served to polarize Americans. The Education Department under the Biden Administration continues to promote CRT yet refuses to turn over the documents that reveal their intentions. With Secretary Cardona pushing back against efforts to stop CRT, it is now more important than ever that the pertinent records are released. If the Education Department is promoting divisive messages, FGI will continue its pursuit of the truth so that the American public can be informed.”



Bloomberg Reporter Reveals Bias for Biden Treasury Department

In email, reporter stressed ‘commitment to Yellen.’

June 16, 2023

(Washington, DC) – Government watchdog the Functional Government Initiative (FGI) has uncovered evidence that certain Bloomberg reporters had given Biden Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen such favorable coverage that they chafed under Treasury’s censorship of their stories, and weren’t shy about letting the Treasury Department know their displeasure.

FGI gathered documents related to the renomination of Jerome Powell as Federal Reserve Chairman via Freedom of Information Act requests. Among the documents are emails showing that numerous members of the press were in touch with officials at the Department of Treasury seeking insights about Secretary Yellen’s opinion of Powell and how she was advising the White House on its decision to renominate Powell.

In one email from Bloomberg Senior Washington Correspondent Saleha Mohsin to Calvin Mitchell and Lily Adams, both Assistant Secretaries for Public Affairs at Treasury, Mohsin was clearly steamed. “Bloomberg reporters show enough commitment to Yellen that we travel far and wide to cover her,” Mohsin wrote, “only to have you [sic] quotes killed. Yellen made the same comments live to the networks and its no big deal.”

It sounds as though Treasury Department Public Affairs staff had the power to pick and choose what Yellen quotes Bloomberg could report, and Mohsin was tiring of it. Given Boomberg’s demonstrated “commitment to Yellen,” it should have more freedom to choose what it publishes.

Peter McGinnis, spokesman for FGI, issued the following statement:

“If Treasury officials were censoring Bloomberg’s reporters, that’s unethical. If Bloomberg reporters allowed it to happen, it’s unethical and unprofessional. Trading access for message control is an old game in Washington, but rarely do you see evidence this blatant. We know the media takes the Biden administration’s side. Now it seems that Bloomberg reporters take its dictation too.”


Efforts to Ban Gas Stoves Subject of New Litigation

Gas stoves, a staple in many Americans’ homes, targeted by a new proposed ban despite public claims to the contrary

June 1, 2023

(Washington, DC) – Today, the Functional Government Initiative (FGI) announced lawsuits against three federal agencies, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the Department of Energy (DOE), and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, regarding records about the Biden Administration’s plans to ban new gas stoves.

FGI submitted FOIA requests to those agencies to clarify the Administration’s reasoning and to make sense of seemingly conflicting statements regarding the scope of proposed regulations that could effectively ban gas stoves. With no response within the time limits under the law, FGI is filing its lawsuits to compel their release.

The ostensible spur to government action was a December 2022 research study that indicated 12.7 percent of childhood asthma in the United States is attributable to gas stove use. In a January 2023 interview, CPSC Commissioner Richard Trumka, Jr. stated that gas stoves were a “hidden hazard” and “products that can’t be made safe can be banned.” Later, Trumka clarified in a tweet that the proposed new gas stove regulations would apply only to new ones. Americans who currently have gas and choose to switch to electric would receive a rebate under the Inflation Reduction Act.

CPSC Chair Commissioner Alexander Hoehn-Saric also stated that “CPSC is looking for ways to reduce related indoor air quality hazards. But to be clear, I am not looking to ban gas stoves and the CPSC has no proceeding to do so.” However, a leaked internal memo written by Trumka stated there was sufficient evidence to move forward with a gas stove ban. That memo pre-dated the release of the asthma study, showing that the CPSC’s move to ban gas stoves was already long in the works.

Meanwhile, the DOE proposed its first-ever efficiency regulation on cooking appliances, which could potentially make 50 percent of currently available gas stove models non-compliant. The contradictory actions raise questions over the outside influence and intentions behind the apparent dysfunction driving the Administration’s approach toward gas stoves. Also, there are calls for HUD to ban stoves in public housing, potentially adding another agency to the effort.

Peter McGinnis, spokesman for FGI, issues the following statement:

“The Biden Administration has been anything but clear with the public about its intentions relating to gas stoves. The various efforts to ‘study’ their use has been seen as a predicate for a future ban while other federal agencies have taken actions that fly in the face of what they’ve told the public. FGI intends to find out who is driving the push to regulate or ban gas stoves. The American people deserve to know why they’re home appliance options may be curtailed even further.”


Memo to Granholm in Late 2021 Indicates SPR Releases Timed to Coincide with Predicted Price Decreases

Administration’s decisions to tap SPR appear designed to take political advantage of projected declines in price

January 25, 2023

(Washington, DC) – Today, the Functional Government Initiative (FGI) released records obtained from ongoing litigation against the Department of Energy (DOE) to get to the bottom of the motivation behind the decision to release oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) in late 2021 through late 2022. A memo FGI received in the case shows the Department had predicted declines in gas prices even before SPR resources were released to the market. The sales from the SPR stopped after the midterm elections and at one point included sales of more than a million barrels to a Chinese-government-tied energy company.

During Biden’s campaign in 2020, he explicitly promised to limit additional domestic oil and gas development. Upon coming into office, the Biden Administration lived up to that promise with several ongoing steps to restrict domestic energy production. The subsequent spike in average gas prices from January 2021 ($2.38) to mid-November 2021 ($3.41) – and ultimately climbing to more than $5 a gallon in June 2022 – lead many experts and the American public to directly link the higher prices to the President’s energy policy. Today’s average price per gallon is $3.27, 37 percent higher than the day before President Biden took office.

FGI filed litigation against the Department of Energy after it withheld records it is required to release under the Freedom of Information Act. Records obtained so far show that a non-public memorandum from the Energy Information Administration was provided to Secretary Granholm less than two weeks before the President announced the release of 50 million barrels of oil in November 2021. The heavily redacted memo indicates that DOE officials believed retail gas prices would decrease in the first few quarters of 2022 and provided an estimated retail price drop tied to a per barrel release from the SPR. This indicates the Administration recognized gas prices would decline regardless of any release from SPR but that the release was timed to be able to take maximum political advantage of the natural price drop while weakening the nation’s ability to call on the SPR to meet a real supply emergency.

However, the heavily redacted documents do not reveal the details of the projections. Neither do they show to what extent the decision to release 50 million barrels sought either to rely on those projections to reduce retail gas prices to Trump-era levels or claim credit for already-projected falling gas prices. Additional document productions made under supervision of the court will continue to shed light on DOE’s motivations and whether their actions in drawing down the SPR are just more evidence of dysfunctional energy policies.

Peter McGinnis, spokesman for FGI, issued the following statement:

“The decision by the Biden Administration to drain the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, absent a clear emergency and armed with the expectation of several quarters of falling retail gas prices, raises many questions about the legality and political nature of the decision-making. The timing and existence of the memo obtained by FGI only enhances the public’s concern that political motives may have played a role. In light of the economics of having to re-stock the reserves at today’s higher prices, the many SPR releases also appear to represent an extremely costly political contribution for the American taxpayer. This is the precise type of dysfunction the Administration’s so-called ‘return to normalcy’ was supposed to avoid.”