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December 15, 2015

EPA Rebuked for Abusing the Law

The agency’s propaganda violated the law.

Fresh off the heels of the Paris climate talks, the Environmental Protection Agency has already made headlines. However, this time it’s not because of failing to protect the environment, but because of failing to obey the law. With the EPA being Barack Obama’s favorite ecological weapon to enforce his agenda, one would think that the all-powerful agency would be a bit more careful in pushing its proposals.

It is worth recounting several of the EPA’s abysmal failures leading up to the newest wrongdoings. First, we previously reported that an EPA employee confessed to downloading more than 7,000 pornographic files to his computer and watching them for two to six hours a day. Not exactly the type of worker taxpayers want to be paying for.

Then recall that back in August the very agency that is supposed to protect the environment was found responsible for breaching a retaining wall during an inspection that led to the spillage of three million gallons of toxic chemicals and waste into the Animas river. Of course, the EPA apologized for the incident, but had someone in the private sector been responsible for the spill, the fines would still be piling up.

Then in October, a federal court ruled that the EPA had to stop encroaching on all of the small waterways nationwide. The EPA’s expanded interpretation of the Clean Water Act was an attempt by the agency to take control of every waterway in the United States. The EPA has no regard for state sovereignty, but in this case the court prevailed and the EPA had to stop its power grab.

Yet despite farmers, landowners, businesses and the courts opposing the overreach in the name of the Clean Water Act, the EPA decided to mount an effort to engage the public on the issue with the end being enough congressional support to pass legislation. Rather than relying solely on the mainstream media to push its proposals the EPA turned to different means — social media.

According to The New York Times, congressional auditors have concluded that “the Environmental Protection Agency engaged in ‘covert propaganda’ and violated federal law when it blitzed social media to urge the public to back an Obama administration rule intended to better protect the nations streams and surface waters.”

That’s right; the Government Accountability Office ruled that the EPA went too far to push its cause. As the Times notes, “Federal laws prohibit agencies from engaging in lobbying and propaganda.” Not surprisingly, an EPA official downplayed the findings by GAO and claimed that the EPA was simply using social media as a tool to stay connected and inform people of its activities. In other words, move along; nothing to see here.

Further, the Times notes, “The E.P.A. rolled out a social media campaign on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and even on more innovative tools such as Thunderclap, to counter opposition to its water rule, which effectively restricts how land near certain surface waters can be used. The agency said the rule would prevent pollution in drinking water sources.”

Moreover, federal agencies are not allowed to engage in propaganda or other covert activity for the sole purpose of influencing the American public. Federal agencies are also not allowed to use federal resources to lobby for the American public to contact Congress to act on legislation that is pending. Yet the Environmental Protection Agency did engage in propaganda and did conduct lobbying according to the GAO report.

Here are the examples cited in the report:

  • A thunderclap message was used to reach out to 1.8 million people to urge them to support the clean water proposal. The message read, “Clean water is important to me. I support EPA’s efforts to protect it for my health, my family and my community.”

The problem with this message was that the millions of people who read it didn’t know it was being put out by the EPA; hence it is deemed to be covert activity.

  • In a blog post, one of the public affairs officers named Travis Loop claimed he was a surfer and posted a message stating that he did not “want to get sick from pollution.” In addition there was a link to an advocacy group for clean water and a “take action” button that told the public to “tell Congress to stop interfering with your right to clean water.”

There is definitely some lobbying in that post, but further, there’s the made-up notion that we have a “right” to clean water as enforced by bureaucratic mandate.

  • The GAO also determined that the EPA violated a federal Antideficiency Act, which prohibits federal agencies from spending money without authorization.

In other words, taxpayer dollars were used to fund the propaganda and lobbying efforts. So instead of the Environmental Protection Agency, we’re left with the Environmental Propaganda Agency.

If only the three-strikes-and-you’re-out rule could be applied to this agency. But since actual accountability likely won’t happen, maybe, just maybe the GAO report will have done enough damage and exposed the EPA for what it is and the legislation before Congress will receive enough “no” votes to stop this group of unelected bureaucrats from their attempted power grab.

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