Open The Books On The EPA And We Find Appalling Waste
The last several months have been bad ones for the Environmental Protection Agency.
On August 5, EPA employees blundered into creating one of the worst toxic spills in American history when they allowed three million gallons of wastewater to flow into the Animas River in Colorado. The spill occurred during an attempted cleanup of an abandoned mine, despite warnings that their activity was creating the likelihood of a “blowout.”
But EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy did offer that she was “absolutely, deeply sorry this ever happened.”
Later in the same month, a federal court ruled that its proposed “waters of the United States” regulation – an immense grab of new power I wrote about here – was in violation of its congressional grant of authority and promulgated in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act. Judge Erickson therefore ordered a stay on the rule. (Decision available here.)
Then, early in October, a report by former Maine senator and Secretary of Defense William Cohen showed that the agency had trampled all over the law to kill the Pebble Mine project in Alaska. EPA officials had, he concluded, “orchestrated the process to reach a predetermined outcome.” Cohen’s study is available here.
On top of all the evidence of incompetence and lawlessness comes a report by Open the Books finding enormous spending by the EPA on a wide array of goodies.
Quoted here, Adam Andrzewski, the founder of Open the Books, said, “Everyone is under the impression that the EPA is spending money to ‘clean the environment.’ But, it turns out EPA is running a $160 million PR machine, $715 million police agency, a near $1 billion employment agency for seniors, and a $1.2 billion in-house law firm.”
Read and weep at the report by Open the Books on the EPA’s spending.
There is much to object to in the EPA’s extravagance, particularly at a time when the federal government continues to drive the nation further into debt every minute.
For one thing, why should it (or any government agency for that matter), spend money on publicity? The EPA employs nearly 200 in-house public relations staffers, and yet blows $15 million more on outside PR consultants. The taxpayers are being squeezed so that the EPA can “spin” its activities and thus build public support for future increases in its budget and scope of power.
Monarchs of old used to employ fawning court historians to magnificently portray themselves in exactly the same way. American taxpayers shouldn’t be bilked for pro-government spin any more than the poor taxpayers under the French Bourbons or Russian Romanovs were.
We also see that since 2007, the EPA has ladled out some $144 million in performance bonuses. Why should employees who are already very well paid (average salary at the EPA is over $111,000) for doing their jobs receive bonuses? In the private sector, incentives can be useful in stimulating additional effort and creativity, but in government it merely increases the burden on the taxpayers.
But the most amazing revelation (to me, anyway) is that how much the EPA spends on weaponry, including some items that exemplify the frightening trend toward the militarization of American life.
We learn from the report that the EPA spent: $1.4 million for “guns up to 300mm,” $380,000 on ammunition, $210,000 on camouflage and other deceptive equipment, $208,000 for radar and night-vision equipment, and $31,000 on armament training devices.
Not only is all of that expenditure unnecessary, but once government agencies have paramilitary capability, they like to find excuses to use it, such as the armed raid against a tiny Alaska village over allegations of mining pollution in 2013. When government agents show up with weapons ready, violence is much more likely than if officials in plain clothes peacefully announce their reason for being there.
Incidentally, there’s an irony in the availability of the information Open the Books makes such good use of.
In 2006, Congress passed and President Bush signed the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act, which requires that all agencies make their spending available to the public. The bill was sponsored by that long-time foe of government waste, Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma (now retired) and a little-known senator from Illinois – Barack Obama.
Back then, Obama affected concern about transparency and cost control in government. Since moving into the White House, he has shown no interest in either.
For decades, under both Democratic and Republican administrations, federal officials have been luxuriating in the gusher of tax dollars. No one has cared about paring costs of all the many, many agencies down to the bare necessities. What the country desperately needs is for the next president to take our ever-mounting debt seriously and demand that his or her cabinet officers and agency heads eliminate waste, fraud and abuse, rather than merely saying they’ll do so.
Whoever is elected, with Open the Books around, it will be easier to hold our politicians and bureaucrats accountable. Let’s use it.
Originally posted on Forbes.