In a decision today from the non-partisan Government Accountability Office, the GAO found that the Environmental Protection Agency violated federal law in promoting the agency’s “waters of the United States” rule. The decision found the EPA engaged in covert propaganda and grassroots lobbying to support the WOTUS rule. Philip Ellis, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association president, said this report confirms what producers have long suspected: an agency with a radical agenda.
“The WOTUS rule is a flawed rule from a flawed process, and we thank Senator Inhofe (R-Okla.) for calling attention to this clear violation of the law,” said Ellis. “The EPA’s zealous advocacy of their rule in violation of federal law shows the extremes to which this administration will go to subvert public opinion in favor of their far-reaching environmental agenda.”
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,” said 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 tax-payer 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.
“The Army Corps’ of Engineers has raised concerns that the EPA exaggerated the scientific basis for their jurisdictional determinations, the courts have twice found rationale to halt implementation of the rule, and both Chambers of Congress have taken action to withdraw the rule,” said Ellis. “It is time for Congress to act to fully defund implementation of the WOTUS rule and bring accountability to the EPA.”
The GAO’s general counsel has advised the EPA to report the violations and the costs associated with the violation of the law to the President and Congress as required by the Antideficiency Act.