The Government Accountability Office (GAO) dropped a very large hammer this week on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) when it released a report detailing its findings on EPA’s actions to push implementation of the controversial Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule.
In its 26-page report, the GAO says, “…we conclude that EPA violated the described provisions through its use of social media in association with its rulemaking efforts to define "Waters of the United States" under the Clean Water Act (CWA) during FYs 2014 and 2015. Because EPA obligated and expended appropriated funds in violation of statutory prohibitions, we also conclude that EPA violated the Antideficiency Act, 31 U.S.C. § 1341(a)(1 )(A), as the agency's appropriations were not available for these prohibited purposes.”
Now that EPA has been caught breaking the law of the land, here’s the question: Does anybody in Washington D.C. care? Or has flaunting the will of the people become so commonplace in our nation’s capital that the GAO report won’t even raise an eyebrow?
EPA has lost twice in court battles over WOTUS and both chambers of Congress have made initial moves to deal with this flawed rule. Why, then, is it still an issue? Why hasn’t Congress done the right thing and killed WOTUS permanently?
It’s clear that those of you with your hands on the stick shifts of the economic engines that drive this great country certainly care about EPA’s illegal activities. We have long suspected that EPA wasn’t playing by the rules, and now it’s official.
According to NCBA, the GAO decision finds that the EPA’s use of Thunderclap, in which a single social media message can be shared across multiple Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr accounts at the same time, was a prohibited use of EPA’s appropriations for unauthorized publicity or propaganda purposes.
“From the start, the EPA’s use of social media and particularly Thunderclap, raised concerns with stakeholders opposed to the WOTUS rule,” says NCBA President Philip Ellis. “The use of these messages, without attribution to the agency, was clearly intended to deceive the public to engage in the spread of EPA’s propaganda without consideration of the rulemaking process. By crafting the social media message to appear grassroots, the EPA misused taxpayer funds to support expansion of federal jurisdiction.”
The GAO also found that the agency’s website links to policy engagements on the Natural Resources Defense Council and Surfrider Foundation webpages constituted grassroots lobbying in violation of the grassroots lobbying prohibition, NCBA says.
Farm Bureau President Bob Stalman chimed in as well, saying, “The GAO findings vindicate those, like the American Farm Bureau Federation, who have claimed all along that EPA’s tactics advocating for this rule stepped past the bounds of proper agency rulemaking. EPA was focused only on promoting the rule rather than hearing good-faith concerns from a wide cross-section of Americans. The public deserves better when important matters of public policy are at stake.”
Indeed we do. It’s now time for Congress to step up, do the right thing, and kill WOTUS permanently. Doing so will send two signals—one to EPA that it must act within the laws of the land and be responsive to the will of the people. The second signal is to all the beleaguered folks trying to make a living under rules and regulations shoved down by heavy-handed government bureaucrats. That signal will be that, sometimes at least, the checks and balances in our system of government work.
The GAO report confirms what many have long suspected—the EPA is an out-of-control agency with a radical agenda.
We deserve better.
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