McCaskill Calls for Answers on Questionable Department of Energy Contracting Arrangement

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, the top-ranking Democrat on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, called for answers on why two Department of Energy contractors with a history of waste and fraud were able to subcontract to themselves by creating a subsidiary that can avoid direct oversight by the federal government. The contract is for the Hanford nuclear Waste Treatment Plant, a project that was first set to be completed in 2011.

“We know that these companies have fallen short on nuclear safety standards and used taxpayer dollars for lobbying—yet the Department of Energy is allowing them to move forward with a contracting arrangement that allows for less oversight,” said McCaskill, a former Missouri State Auditor. “I look forward to getting answers on why the Department of Energy thinks this is a good idea.”

In a letter to Energy Secretary Rick Perry, McCaskill has requested a briefing about the circumstances under which two companies—who recently paid the government a $125 million settlement—issued a subcontract to a subsidiary to complete construction and commission the Waste Treatment Plant at the Hanford nuclear site. The companies, Bechtel National, Inc. (BNI) and AECOM, were sued after whistleblowers alleged that the contractors were using government funds for lobbying and charged the government for materials that did not meet nuclear quality standards. Allowing BNI and AECOM to subcontract to their own subsidiary “raises questions about DOE’s ability to conduct oversight of Bechtel’s work as a subcontractor to itself, including transparency and accountability issues that could arise,” McCaskill wrote. “I also have questions about the impact of this subcontract on performance and cost.”

McCaskill’s request is part of a long history of oversight over the Department of Energy, including the Hanford nuclear site. She has held multiple events spotlighting whistleblowers who were fired after raising safety concerns at the Hanford nuclear site and led a formal hearing on whistleblower retaliation. McCaskill’s efforts ultimately resulted in expanding whistleblower protections to government contractors, subcontractors, and others who the federal government directly or indirectly hires. The law also prohibits contractors from being reimbursed for legal fees accrued in their defense against retaliation claims by whistleblowers.

Read McCaskill’s briefing request HERE.