Although it is almost a year old, the Department of Energy still is unprepared to deal with energy supply emergencies, according to a confidential DOE study.
The investigation by the department's inspector general, compiled in June, painted a picture of uncertainty, confusion and divided authority within DOE.
Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), chairman of the House energy and power subcommittee, said he was "distressed" by many of the findings and "even more disturbed" that the June report - labeled a draft - has not been made final.
Dingell's subcommittee intends to hold hearings on both the DOE report and a separate but not yet completed study by Congress' own General Accounting Office.
Inspector General J. Kenneth Mansfield's study said "it seemed reasonable to predict" that the consolidation of scattered federal emergency functions into DOE would habe brought improvement.
"However, that promise has not been realized," Mansfield's report said. "The creation of DOE did not, in itself, cure deficiencies in energy emergency planning as it was expected to do. The job remains to be done."
A DOE spokesman said that "no specific action" had been taken in response to the report because it has not been put in final form. But, he added, "in general sense, most of the concerns and recommendations have been addressed to one degree or another." He gave no details.
These were some of the major weaknesses listed by the Mansfield study:
DOE has given "short shrift" to its legal duty to provide preparedness and planning for electrical power interruptions that would result from an armed attack on the United States. "The organization with the full responsibility for discharging that duty was understaffed, short of funds, isolated, demoralized and uninformed about important aspects of the functions it would need to perform," the report said.
No office or individual is assigned to oversee the department's emergency preparedness operations, and DOE is not even certain about what constitutes an emergency.
The department is not ready to deal quickly with the states in responding to regional or national energy emergencies.
DOE has not planned adequately for gathering and distributing energy supply data that would be essential in the event of another oil embargo.
Mansfield's investigators reviewed DOE's activities during the national coal strike last winter and came to a general conculsion that "there was a lack of direction and policy guidance from the top management of the department until the strike reached a critical stage."
State officials who talked with the investigators complained of no coordination during the coal crisis and divided authorities for dealing with urgent problems.
The report also DOE was far off base in calculating the unemployment and coal supply declines that would occur during the strike - critical elements in guiding the federal response and in establishing DOE credibility.
The only positive note reported was that coal allocation regulations and instructions for implementing them were drafted in timely fashion, although the strike ended before allocation was needed.