A government watchdog group filed suit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for not handing over records related to the “environmental justice” grants the agency hands out to activist groups across the country.
Judicial Watch filed suit Monday after the EPA failed to comply with a 2015 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request seeking records of environmental justice grants and their associated proposals during the Obama administration.
“The Obama EPA’s ‘environmental justice’ slush fund for its left-wing allies needs to be exposed,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a statement. “This is a simple records request and the fact that the Obama EPA ignored it for years tells you the agency has something to hide.”
Judicial Watch previously spearheaded an investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s email server. Now, they are demanding EPA turn over records the conservative group requested nearly one-and-a-half years ago.
President Donald Trump ordered a freeze on all EPA grants shortly after taking office. Trump’s budget proposal calls for eliminating EPA’s environmental justice program, which prompted the head of the program to resign.
Mustafa Ali, the head of EPA’s environmental justice program, resigned in early March, publishing a resignation letter that urged EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt not to kill the program.
“When I hear we are considering making cuts to grant programs like the EJ small grants or Collaborative Problem Solving programs, which have assisted over 1,400 communities, I wonder if our new leadership has had the opportunity to converse with those who need our help the most,” Ali wrote in his letter.
“I strongly encourage you and your team to continue promoting agency efforts to validate these communities’ concerns, and value their lives,” Ali wrote to Pruitt.
EPA has spent $24 million since 1994 as part of a “small grants” program that funds environmental projects carried out by activists and community groups. One project funded the Connecticut-based Green Jobs Corps’ plans to educate the youth about threats to water quality.
EPA also funds cooperative agreements with activist and community groups. One such agreement with the Montachusett Opportunity Council (MOC) seeks to “raise community awareness about stormwater runoff and water pollution prevention.”
EPA defines environmental justice as “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.”
In all, EPA spends about $4 billion a year on grants to outside groups and state and tribal agencies. Environmental groups also benefit from EPA grants, and some of those same activist groups oppose Trump’s budget cuts.
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