Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., is still seeking answers about the science behind the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to list the White Bluffs bladderpod as a threatened species.
The House Natural Resources Committee, which Hastings chairs, issued a subpoena this week to the agency seeking the documents related to the decision.
The bladderpod is a native plant species along the Columbia River.
The committee first requested the documents in March, and says the agency missed March 21 and April 2 deadlines.
Gavin Shire, acting deputy chief of public affairs for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, says the agency is working to provide the documents the committee requested.
In the last month, the agency produced almost 4,000 pages of documents in response to committee requests, Shire said, and promised to produce additional documents to the committee on the bladderpod by April 18, the deadline specified in the subpoena.
The committee sent the department 26 letters about 14 distinct document requests, Shire said.
According to the committee, some information has been provided, but most of Hastings’ document requests remain unanswered.
“The administration is not being open and transparent about the science, or lack of science, used by the government to make this decision,” Hastings said in a press release. “The government shouldn’t keep science a secret.”
He said the step is necessary to end “deliberate stonewalling.”
“Americans have a right to know what science and data went into a listing decision that could have serious economic impacts,” Hastings said. “Subpoenas are never my preferred option, but it appears to be the only away to get the administration to take our document requests seriously.”
Franklin County, Wash., farmers have expressed concern that U.S. Bureau of Reclamation waste way canals carrying water for irrigation could be impacted by the listing, which would require the bladderpod’s habitat to be protected.
“This administration has a history of withholding information from House committees in the past,” committee online communications manager Neal Kirby told the Capital Press.
The final decision to list the bladderpod was made months ago, Kirby said. “So the information that Chairman Hastings and the committee are requesting should be relatively accessible to provide.”
The agency is not required to comply until Congress issues a subpoena, Kirby said.
“But we would hope they could shed more light on their decision-making process on their own accord instead of being compelled by law,” he said.