Scandal – Obama Officials Caught Pressuring Contractors to Fudge Job Loss Numbers

May 21, 2012 at 4:28 pm (Coal, Coal Miners, Department of Energy, DOE, Economy, Jobs, Jobs Report, Lives Touched, Manipulate, Natural Resources Committee, Office of Surface Mining, OSM)

Shocking or par for the course?

Via the Washington Free Beacon:

Obama administration officials may have pressured government contractors to change job loss estimates associated with coal regulations, audio recordings reveal.

The tapes show that unnamed officials with the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM) asked government contractors to change their calculations of job losses associated with the Stream Protection Rule.

A preliminary draft of an environmental impact statement estimated that up to 7,000 coalminers could lose their jobs under the administration’s “preferred” regulation. After a leaked copy of the report went public, officials asked the contractors to compare job estimates to a model in which another regulation was enforced, rather than the real world numbers.

“It’s not the real world, this is rulemaking,” an OSM official tells a skeptical contractor on the recording.

“If we’re to assume [the 2008 rule] is enforced in the coal-producing states, this is a very small [impact],” the contractor replies. “But that, as you said, is not the real world, that’s pretending … I thought we were looking at what’s going to change in Kentucky, what’s going to change in Pennsylvania, what’s going to change in Ohio, what’s going to change in Wyoming.”

When a second OSM official makes light of the “theoretical discussion,” the contractor shoots back that “his [the OSM official’s proposed criteria] was theoretical, mine was practical.”

The agency fired the contractors studying the rule less than one month later.

Not only has the administration been caught red-handed trying to manipulate numbers, they actively tried to cover up the scandal.

The House Natural Resources Committee obtained the tapes from an unidentified third party after OSM provided heavily redacted transcripts—the exchange above, for example, was blacked out—and withheld the audio recordings.

This is an administration that was caught nearly two years ago trying to inflate job numbers by demanding that Department of Energy contractors use a metric called ‘lives touched’ when counting jobs created via the stimulus.  As explained by a CH2M Hill spokesman in the summer of 2010:

“Lives Touched” is a figure that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) uses to track the amount of people who have been positively affected by the Recovery Act funds.  This total would include people who have been provided full time employment (i.e. saved and created jobs) through the Recovery Act and people who at some point have supported a project funded by the Recovery Act.

This meant that the DOE’s accounting system was not accurately counting jobs, but rather was tracking a cumulative analysis of all individuals who contribute anything to any given project.  An overall headcount of sorts.  According to reporting instructions for CH2M subcontractors, this constitutes the “total number of workers who have directly charged 1 or more hours of work time to a … contract”

This new report on contractors and the coal industry is just another in a pattern of the Obama administration using smoke and mirrors to convince the American people that the economy isn’t nearly as bad as one would think.  This particular case had the added effect of trying to minimize the tangible evidence that Obama was intentionally trying to kill the coal industry – a result that has been definitively proven.

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Company That Received $2 Billion in Stimulus Addresses Rumor of Even More Layoffs

April 9, 2012 at 9:00 am (CH2M Hill, Department of Energy, Economy, Jobs, John Lehew, Stimulus, Washington State University)

John Lehew, the President of CH2M Hill, a company that received nearly $2 billion in stimulus funds and eventually had to lay off several hundred employees, had a very busy day on Friday.  After news spread that the company had been awarded a $1.3 million grant to assist those who had been laid off as a result of the stimulus, Lehew made the news twice.

First, when addressing a group of students at a Washington State University civil engineering program

…civil engineers are in high demand, and contractors at the Hanford site regularly hire them.
The program’s corporate sponsors — CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Co., Washington River Protection Solutions, Bechtel National and Fluor Corp. — all work in the area and in connection to Hanford. Their officials spoke toward the value of having a well-trained work force available and familiar with the area at graduation.
“I’m looking forward to hiring a few of you folks,” said John Lehew, president of CH2M Hill.

Optimism didn’t necessarily rule the day however.  While he may be looking forward to hiring new graduates, the prospects for Lehew’s current staff grow ever more dreary.  Also on Friday, comes this…

CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Co. addressed rumors of potential layoffs Thursday with a memo to employees from Chief Executive Officer John Lehew.
The Hanford contractor is in the early stages of evaluating staffing and has no specific information now, the memo stated.
The current work force is aligned with the budget available for the fiscal year, it stated.
But as the remaining economic stimulus spending work that carried over to this year is completed and other work is performed, the contractor is evaluating various staffing scenarios to meet the Department of Energy’s 2015 vision, the memo stated…

All of this for a company that received a massive $2 billion from the federal stimulus bill.  We reported on the situationa few months back at Accuracy in Media:

… a Wall Street Journal report worried about what stimulating the economy now meant for the long haul, pointing out that shoveling money at nuclear-waste projects was nothing more than a short-term Band-Aid on a long-term wound.

“… projects that employ people quickly are often considered ‘low-hanging fruit’ and can fail to set the stage for long-term economic growth.”

Sure enough, when the low-hanging fruit began to go bad, when the stimulus funding ran out for the company at the Hanford site, all of those jobs—and then some—were eliminated. Reports of staff reductions at CH2M began in January when KEPR-TV announced that 1,350 layoffs were coming in September due to the end of stimulus funding.  The company had to organize a job fair for those affected by these layoffs, as well as an additional 1,000 laid off men and women at the contractor’s Hanford site. Hanford started the year with 12,000 workers but lost 2,000 positions nine months later.

Regardless, it has to leave a bitter taste for those employees who have been laid off, or are currently fearing for their jobs, to watch the President of the company talk about hiring inexperienced graduates.  Perhaps Mr. Lehew is anticipating another crony stimulation?

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Company That Received $1.96 Billion in Stimulus, Gets $1.3 Million Grant For Employees Laid Off Because of Stimulus

April 4, 2012 at 7:27 pm (CH2M Hill, Department of Energy, Economy, Hanford, Hilda Solis, Jobs, Maria Cantwell, Patty Murray, Stimulus)

Sometimes the stories write themselves.  Here are the facts…

  • A Colorado-based consulting, engineering and construction firm, named CH2M Hill, was awarded nearly $2 billion from the stimulus to perform cleanup work at the Hanford nuclear site.
  • The company used those funds to hire roughly 1,300 employees.
  • They then inflated the hiring numbers by using a Department of Energy metric known as “lives touched”, which allowed them to boast that the stimulus helped somehow helped or ‘touched’ three-and-a-half times as many people as they had actually employed.
  • When the stimulus funds ran out, so did the ability to support the jobs created or lives touched.  Roughly 1,500 employees were laid off.

And now, via the Tri-City Herald:

The Department of Labor has awarded a $1.3 million National Emergency Grant to help laid-off Hanford workers find jobs.
The largest portion of the money will be used for retraining former Hanford workers who lost their jobs as federal economic stimulus spending at the nuclear reservation came to an end.
“This grant will serve as a safety net for workers and their families during these challenging economic times,” Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said in a statement. Murray and Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., sent a letter to Hilda Solis, the secretary of labor, in February, requesting consideration of a state application for the grant.
The money will help an estimated 400 former Hanford workers seeking jobs, giving them intensive employment-related assistance, including training, to help them re-enter the work force in areas of the economy that are growing, according to the Department of Labor…

…  The grant is intended to provide money for workers laid off from DOE Hanford prime contractors CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Co. and Mission Support Alliance and more than 10 subcontractors…

“Workers formerly employed at the Hanford site are facing the challenge of finding jobs comparable to the ones they lost,” Solis said in a statement. “This federal grant aims to help lessen the negative impact of these layoffs.” 

So to summarize, CH2M Hill receives $2 billion in stimulus funds, loses a net of roughly 200 jobs, pretends they helped out over three times as many people, and then has to get a government grant to help those who were laid off find jobs.

Government efficiency… the ultimate oxymoron.

Incidentally, I encourage you to read the entire report to find out exactly why Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell have a vested interest in this company’s success.  Find it here…

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Obama Announces New $240 Billion Alchemy Initiative to Boost Economy

April 1, 2012 at 11:25 am (Alchemy, April Fool's, Department of Energy, Economy, Green Energy, Green Jobs, President Obama, Solar, Steven Chu)

With a fragile U.S. economy hanging in the balance and soaring gas prices looming as a threat to any hopes of a recovery, President Obama has announced plans to implement a $240 billion alchemy initiative program to help stimulate the economy.
The plan will include tax breaks to companies who will abandon primitive plans for off-shore oil drilling, for the pursuit of more modern alchemy experiments and production.  The President hopes that the new plan will be as wildly successful as the Green Jobs initiative he implemented when he first came into office.
“It’s clear why such an effort is so important,” he said.  “Building a robust alchemy sector is how we will create jobs of the future, jobs that will, quite literally, pay for themselves.”
“We boast one critical, renewable resource the rest of the world cannot match,” he continued.  “American ingenuity.”
When asked whether or not that ‘American ingenuity’ would actually keep people from being coaxed into supporting such a plan, Obama responded, “I convinced them to vote for me.  Anything is possible.”
Pressed for further details about the program, the President said, “Let me be clear.  This isn’t rocket science.  We leave that to the professionals at our Muslim Outreach Program, er, NASA.  What we’re basically doing here is turning other metals into gold.  How can that possibly fail?”
He added, “With so much success in the solar energy field, this seems like a logical next step for our Energy Department.”
Steven Chu, when pressed for comment, gave the new alchemy initiative high marks. 
“I’d say, better than an A-.”

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Video – Energy Secretary Gives Himself an ‘A’ in Handling of Gas Prices

March 20, 2012 at 4:11 pm (Al Gore, Darrell Issa, Department of Energy, Europe, Gas Prices, Gasoline, Republicans, Steven Chu)

I’d sure hate to see what gas prices would be like if he got science grades like, say, an Al Gore or something.

From Congressman Issa:

Secretary of Energy Chu said today that he had earned an A for controlling the price of gas at the pump.  At a hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee today, Secretary Chu had the following exchange with Chairman Issa:

“In controlling the cost of gasoline at the pump, do you give yourself an A-?” – Rep. Issa

“Well, the tools we have at our disposal are limited, but I would say I would give myself a little higher – in that since I became Secretary of Energy, I’ve been doing everything I can to get long-term solutions.” – Secretary Chu

Echoing the sentiments of consumers, Chairman Issa said in his hearing statement, that the “Obama DOE was DOA when it came to delivering affordable energy to consumers.”

Issa noted that the price of gasoline today was nearly $4.00—double its average in 2009.

Why Republicans are surprised by this is beyond me.  This is a man who in 2008 said the following:

Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels of Europe.”

So of course he’d give himself an A.  The only thing surprising here is that he didn’t gloat about a ‘mission accomplished.’

Also note that Steven Chu works for the President, a man who wanted higher gas prices.

Remember that every time you’re paying $50, $60, $70 a pop at the gas station – this was the administration’s plan from the get go.  Why?  So you could drive cars with solar panels on the roof.
 

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Company That Received Billions From Stimulus Also Receives Annual State Tax Break of $2 Million

February 13, 2012 at 11:53 pm (ARRA, CH2M Hill, Cleanup, Department of Energy, DOE, Economy, Jobs, Layoffs, Nuclear, Richland, Stimulus, Washington)

In November, Accuracy in Media released my report regarding a company known as CH2M Hill, an engineering firm that claimed nearly $2 billion in stimulus awards.  Most of their work concentrated on one division – the CH2M HILL Plateau Remediation Company (CHPRC) – which operated one of the world’s largest environmental cleanup projects—the Central Plateau on the Hanford Nuclear Site in Richland, Washington.

New information shows that despite their claims, the Energy Department says the company actually received $1.38 billion from the stimulus, but had an additional $3.1 billion in annual budget appropriations.  Furthermore, they are receiving $2 million in state tax breaks annually, yet still laid off thousands of workers.

The Blaze reported:

new investigative report released by Accuracy in Media Wednesday, reveals that CH2M HILL, a Colorado-based consulting, engineering and construction firm, received nearly $2 Billion in stimulus funding despite a history of kickbacks, poor conduct and contaminating their own workers. While they are not in danger of suffering the same bankruptcy plight as Solyndra, CH2M has laid-off thousands of workers since receiving taxpayer stimulus. And like Solyndra, CH2M has donated thousands in campaigns finances to Democrats.

In response to an FOI request for information, the Department of Energy reported that “CHPRC competed for and was awarded a $4.515 B contract on June 19, 2008, to complete select cleanup work at the Hanford Site.”  That award form can be seen here:

Contracts CPRC Contract Conformed Contract RL14788-Section A(function() { var scribd = document.createElement(“script”); scribd.type = “text/javascript”; scribd.async = true; scribd.src = “http://www.scribd.com/javascripts/embed_code/inject.js”; var s = document.getElementsByTagName(“script”)[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(scribd, s); })();

In a letter dated January 30th, 2012, the DOE explains that “…the $4.5 billion amount is for the total original contract value. The $1.38 billion is the amount of American Recovery and Investment Act (ARRA) funds applied to the contract.  The difference between $4.5 billion and $1.38 billion is funded by normal annual budget appropriations (non-ARRA).

So why the discrepancy between the company’s report of $1.9 billion in stimulus funding and the DOE’s claim of $1.38 billion? More importantly, why is a company operating a nuclear cleanup site to the tune of $4.5 billion taking advantage of a $2 million state tax break for research and development?

From a Seattle Times editorial:

HUNDREDS of Washington companies engaged in research and development in technology-related fields pay a reduced business-and-occupation tax. This break was designed to create a healthy R&D climate in our state and spur companies to maturity.
…the Department of Revenue says three companies — Microsoft, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, which is operated by Battelle, and CH2M Hill — get up to a $2 million tax break every year. These companies do impressive work in the Northwest. But these firms do not really need state assistance.

By comparison, titans such as Google and Yahoo! received less than $300,000 in business-and-occupation tax forgiveness annually.

What R&D is a nuclear cleanup firm performing exactly?

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