Sen. Ernst to Introduce Bill Mandating Tracking White House, Executive Branch Carbon Emissions

March 17, 2021 Updated: March 17, 2021

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) says she is introducing legislation that would require the federal government to track and make public the carbon emissions produced by President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and executive branch departments and agencies.

“What I’ve done is put forward some new legislation which will track the carbon emissions of White House and executive branch officials,” Ernst told reporters on March 17 during a digital news conference to mark Sunshine Week.

Sunshine Week celebrates important transparency-in-government laws such as the federal Freedom of Information Act and the March 16 birthday of President James Madison, one of the main authors of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. “Thirty-five years after drafting the Constitution, Madison wrote that democracy without information is ‘but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy,’” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said.

Ernst said her proposal “really does expose the hypocrisy that we have seen with these government officials who are going after bio-fuels and fossil fuels while they themselves are using fossil-fueled transportation means. Just blatant hypocrisy, holding themselves to a totally different standard.”

The Iowa Republican pointed to White House presidential envoy for climate John Kerry, who, she said, “is out there trying to promote a clean environment and a healthy climate while he himself is using—before [joining] the administration, private planes—now he’s using White House or official planes on the taxpayers’ dime to travel around the globe.”

The Ernst proposal—the “Executive Branch Emissions Transparency Act”—is co-sponsored by Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), and Rick Scott (R-Fla.).

“If the Biden Administration is going to limit Iowans’ access to affordable and reliable fuels, kill thousands of American jobs, and implement heavy-handed energy regulations paid for by hardworking Iowans, taxpayers have a right to know about their blatant hypocrisy,” Ernst said during a March 16 press call.

“My bill simply requires the executive branch to track and publicly release the amount of carbon emissions associated with all fossil-fuel powered travel,” she said.

Disclosing Costs

Also this week, Ernst gave her monthly Squeal Award for March 2021 to federal agencies that ignore laws requiring them to disclose the true costs of programs they administer.

Ernst said she is reintroducing her Cost Openness and Transparency Act, which requires federal departments and agencies to publicize the cost of all of their programs, and she pointed to the failure of government officials to comply with the Stevens Amendment.

The Stevens Amendment, which has been a law since 1989, requires the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to disclose “for a grant program the percent of the costs financed with federal funds, the federal dollar amount, and the percentage and dollar amount financed by nongovernmental funds, according to the Government Accountability Office.

Federal officials at the two departments have ignored the Stevens provision for decades, Ernst said. She cited as an example that more than $15 million in federal grant money went to EcoAlliance Health, “a group that has been collaborating with and sending U.S. taxpayer dollars to China’s state-run Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV). A review of EcoHealth Alliance’s press releases and published studies over the past several years demonstrates a total disregard for the Stevens Amendment requirements.”

Ernst has asked the HHS inspector general to investigate the lax observance of the Stevens Amendment, and how that allows federal officials to funnel tax dollars through private groups that end up funding foreign labs such as the Wuhan facility.

Asked by The Epoch Times if the return of earmarks in the federal budgeting process would make the problem worse, Ernst said: “Absolutely it will make this worse. I am opposed, I just think that makes it that much more difficult when you have pet projects, dollars being allocated to certain senators for whatever they want to use those funds for.”

Joining Ernst during the March 17 news conference was Justin Goodman, vice president of White Coat Waste, a nonprofit that opposes federal funding of animal-based research.

Goodman told reporters his group’s national survey of 1,023 voters in January and March found that 77 percent of the public supports an independent U.S. investigation of the origins of the CCP virus—also known as the novel coronavirus.

His group’s polling also found that 72 percent of respondents believe federal grant recipients “should be required to disclose how much money they are getting,” he said.

Goodman added that 64 percent of the Republicans surveyed and 67 percent of the Democrats agreed that federal fund recipients that don’t disclose should have their grants reduced.

“This is widespread, diverse, bipartisan support for these common-sense transparency measures just to have a sense of what the government is doing with our money,” Goodman said.

“It’s an uphill battle, but it is something that of all the issues we have in Washington right now that are so divisive, there is agreement on the COST Act, there is agreement on government transparency, there is agreement on sunshine. I think we need to focus on areas where there is that agreement and we can get things done, rather than having partisan fights about everything.”