Asks for Investigation of Agency Actions on Waters of the U.S.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – August 6, 2015 – (RealEstateRama) — Congressman Lou Barletta, PA-11, has joined 105 other members of the House of Representatives in requesting an investigation as to whether the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) violated the Anti-Lobbying Act in promoting and seeking support for its “Waters of the United States” rule. The lawmakers sent a letter to the EPA’s Inspector General asking that he determine if the EPA wrongfully used taxpayer funds to generate grassroots support for its regulatory agenda, and if the agenda violated the “publicity or propaganda” restrictions in federal law.
“The EPA apparently used an assortment of social media campaigns to solicit comments, and partnered with environmental and grassroots organizations – like the Sierra Club and Organizing for America – to promote the rule,” reads the letter to EPA Inspector General Arthur A. Elkins, Jr. “We are particularly concerned that the most essential and democratic component of the rulemaking, the public notice and comment process, was abused and corrupted in a way that drowned out opposition to help justify the Agency’s actions.”
The Obama Administration rule, crafted and promoted by the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, significantly broadens the federal government’s power to regulate waters and adjacent lands. The Anti-Lobbying Act (18 U.S.C. § 1913) prohibits the EPA from using funds appropriated by Congress to lobby and generate grassroots support for its rules and regulations. Sections 715 and 718 of the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015 (P.L. 113-235), among other appropriations legislation, contain restrictions against engaging in “publicity or propaganda.”
“The EPA consistently made claims that it had received over one million comments on the rule, and about 90 percent of them were supportive,” the letter continues. “However, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, only 20,567 of those comments were considered ‘unique,’ and of those, only 10 percent were considered substantive. The vast majority of comments – more than 98 percent – appeared to be mass mailings generated by the EPA’s lobbying efforts.”
Barletta has consistently opposed the Waters of the U.S. rule, because it undermines the relationship between the federal and state governments established by the Clean Water Act more than four decades ago. The new definition of federal waters would force property owners to prove that large mud puddles and ditches on their property should not be federally regulated. Barletta has heard from local farmers, land owners, and employers in the 11th District, who say will now be facing higher legal fees, increased costs for doing business, and pressure to reduce hiring. Barletta has supported legislation blocking the rule.
“The rulemaking process should take into account all views of the proposed regulations, not just the ones that agree with the rulemakers,” Barletta said after signing the letter. “It looks like the EPA has used taxpayer money to artificially whip up an echo chamber of agreement for its own policies, and then pointed to the fake support as proof of the policies’ value. It’s wrong, and there should be an investigation.”
Click here to read the letter to the EPA’s Inspector General.