POLITICS
12/14/2011 04:59 pm ET

NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko: 'I Have No Plans To Resign'

WASHINGTON -- Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko on Wednesday said he will not step down despite a unified attack on his leadership launched by four of his colleagues on the commission.

"I have no plans to resign because I continue to believe that under my leadership the agency has performed very well. We have committed ourselves to safety, and I believe my record shows that," Jazcko said at Chairman Darrell Issa's House Oversight and Government Committee hearing.

The NRC's four commissioners -- William Magwood, Kristine Svinicki, William Ostendorff and George Apostolakis -- appeared alongside Jazcko to testify on Wednesday, when they accused him of "bullying and intimidation," as well as "outbursts of abusive rage" and hoarding information.

Jazcko refused to apologize either for his decisions in the wake of the Fukushima disaster in Japan or for his general leadership style. He has never bullied his staff, he claims, and only withheld information from them once. What Jazcko did say was regrettable was the political frenzy his colleagues helped stir up.

"I apologize for the distraction," he said.

The hearing comes just days after Issa aired the commission's internal disputes in a release of an October missive. In that letter to White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley, the four commissioners said they had "grave concerns" about the chairman's leadership. Daley has defended Jaczko and declined Issa's request to have an administration official appear at Wednesday's hearing.

Though the four commissioners have sought to paint the conflicts as personal, a report released last week by Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) suggests more ideological underpinnings. Markey's report revealed a concerted effort by the commissioners -- two Democrats and two Republicans -- to delay the implementation of stricter safety standards after the Fukushima meltdown. Jaczko's use of an emergency status declaration to implement the recommendations of the Fukushima Task Force, which the other pro-industry commissioners opposed, was a particular bone of contention.

HuffPost's Ryan Grim reported on Monday that Magwood, the leader of the assault on Jazcko and his likely successor in the event of a successful coup, had previously worked as a consultant for the parent company of the firm that operates Fukushima's nuclear facility. That relationship was not discussed during Wednesday's questions.

"I think you should resign. If you're going to do the right thing for this country and this commission, you should step down," said Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz to Jaczko.

When Jazcko said he had listened carefully to the concerns of his colleagues and was very interested in continuing the dialogue with them to improve communication, Chaffetz cut him off.

"That doesn't seem like any sort of repentance," he said.

Markey in a statement on Wednesday condemned the regulatory commission's political soap opera, urging them to return to their duties and to adopt the post-Fukushima safety measures.

"The reality is that the issues before the NRC today are entirely about safety despite Chairman Issa's warnings to his colleagues at the hearing not to 'hijack' the proceedings to discuss safety matters," Markey said in a statement after the hearing. "These four NRC Commissioners attempted a coup to remove Chairman Jaczko in part because they said they were concerned that the Chairman's actions 'undermined the ability of the Commission to function as prescribed by law and decades of successful practice.' Today, they sang a different tune and testified that they have received all information necessary to do their jobs and that the agency is functioning as well as it ever has in protecting public health and safety. I urge the Commissioners to end the distraction of this sorry soap opera and get back to the business of adopting the regulatory lessons of the Japanese nuclear meltdowns."

The four commissioners will appear Thursday morning to testify before Sen. Barbara Boxer's (D-Calif.) Environment and Public Works Committee, where they are expected to face a more critical line of questioning.

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