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Two Top Energy Department Officials Resign

Citing the need to spend more time with their families, Under Secretary of Energy Robert Card and Beverly Cook, assistant secretary for Environment, Safety and Health, resigned from Department of Energy.

Card and Cook were closely associated with the compensation program launched by the DOE during the Clinton administration that provided health screenings, treatment and compensation payments to workers who developed illnesses related to their employment in nuclear weapons production-related activities.

Some insiders claim the resignations are in response to reports in the Rocky Mountain News that only one payment of $15,000 has been made to one worker out of the 23,000 that filed compensation claims, while some $74 million was spent on paperwork. The Senate put Card on the hot seat at a hearing on March 30, with Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, calling the compensation program "a catastrophic failure." Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley scolded Card because, he said, workers were getting shortchanged while taxpayers got gouged. He also complained, "Congress is getting taken for a ride."

A DOE spokesman denied the resignations were made for any other reasons other than those cited by Card and Cook.

Card, whose resignation is effective April 18, noted, "Enormous improvements have been achieved at the department in management, environmental protection, worker safety, cost savings, energy security and science."

He noted that new initiatives, such as the hydrogen program and zero emissions coal, have been successfully launched which will benefit the Nation for generations to come. "Having had the benefit of being closely associated with DOE for many years prior to my service, I could not have imagined these achievements becoming a reality. Our achievements have been made possible by the work of the thousands of dedicated employees of the Department. I am honored to have been part of the exceptional team that delivered these accomplishments," said Card. Previously, Card was president of DOE contractor Kaiser-Hill, which managed clean-up of the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons facility in Colorado.

Card said that "pressing family issues overtook" his plans to serve out the first term of President George W. Bush.

On April 5, the White House announced that David Garman, currently DOE's assistant secretary of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, has been appointed to serve as the acting under secretary of energy.

Cook said her job was made rewarding "due to the secretary's commitment that safety was his top priority. I am very proud of the safety gains as a result of his support. We have strengthened our safety institutions, processes and line executive oversight which has resulted in a 50 percent reduction in OSHA injury rates since the beginning of the administration."

Cook, who resigned effective April 16th, said she wanted to be closer to family members in the Southwest. "My family needs me now and this is where I need to be," said Cook.

Before taking the position as assistant secretary on Feb. 5, 2002, Cook was the Idaho field office manager for DOE. While at Idaho, Cook engineered a turnaround of site safety, establishing the Idaho site as a "VPP Star" site a special designation by OSHA and DOE for its top performing sites with regard to safety.

The administration has yet to name a successor for Cook's position.

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