A department summary of the rule says it “stays DOE regulations for the assessment of civil penalties against certain contractors and subcontractors for violations of the prohibition against an employee who reports violations of law, mismanagement, waste, abuse or dangerous/unsafe workplace conditions, among other protected activities, concerning nuclear safety.”
Whistleblower advocates worry the rule could discourage the reporting of violations.
“There is already a chilled atmosphere for DOE whistleblowers and the rule that has now been stayed was meant to help address that problem,” said Lydia Dennett, an investigator with the Project on Government Oversight. “Halting the regulation from going forward does nothing to help the department and certainly will not encourage whistleblowers to come forward with legitimate safety concerns.”
Added Louis Clark, executive director and chief executive of the Government Accountability Project: “We have had to engage in pitched litigation against contractors who routinely fire any whistleblower who dares to expose contract fraud, extraordinary public health and safety dangers, and massive contamination of the environment and the workforce — 80 percent of the DOE’s entire budget goes to these contractors.
“This effort has nothing to do with deregulation so that business can thrive. These are government contractors running government facilities,” he continued by email. “These contractors must not be allowed to remain unaccountable, free from meaningful oversight, and able to attack whistleblowers and defend themselves though subsidies supplied by the very taxpayers who they have screwed over.”
Comment has been requested from the Energy Department and the Office of Management and Budget.
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