The U.S.’ top environmental regulator bankrolled lobbying efforts meant to punish farms that supposedly poison the country’s waterways, according to a government report detailing out of control spending.
Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Lankford released this year’s “Wastebook” explaining how an American Indian tribe in Washington state used taxpayer cash from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to target farms.
“The outreach led the tribe, using funding from the EPA, to pay the firm to begin a marketing campaign to convince people that agriculture causes severe water pollution in local waterways,” Lankford’s report noted.
The EPA gave a $3 million federal grant to the Northwest Indians Fisheries Commission in 2011.
The report believes the tribe used more than half-a-million dollars ($600,000) on campaign efforts to convince people that agriculture causes water pollution. The EPA has been unable or unwilling to explain exactly how much money the tribe has used.
The group used the money to encourage local Washingtonians to badger legislators to pass legislation requiring farms to be at least 100 feet from all rivers.
The EPA initially denied the funds violated federal rules against using taxpayer dollars to lobby, according to the report, released Tuesday. It eventually wilted after congressional oversight applied pressure, admitting that the federal funds were used for a “campaign which should not be using federal funds.”
Lankford suggests that anti-lobbying rules should be beefed up to prevent activist groups from using taxpayer dollars to bludgeon American farms.
“American families should be able to use their own money to support a cause or issue dear to their hearts,” the report states. “But they should not be required to fund a cause through their federal tax dollars.”
The EPA has a history of keeping its spending under lock-and-key, even when being probed by various Congressional committees.
Lankford’s report, for instance, comes after investigations in June revealed EPA officials had accumulated $6.3 billion in several accounts lacking transparency.
The accounts – which were created through EPA’s Superfund program – are not technically secret because the agency officially acknowledges their existence.
The EPA deposited more than $6.3 billion into an estimated 1,308 special accounts between 1990 and 2015, according to the agency’s website, and has spent more than half of the total.
The “special accounts” are financed by legal settlements between the agency and parties responsible for polluting Superfund sites. Funds are deposited and spent without prior congressional approval.
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