2015 report: EPA a well-armed militia with little to no oversight

EPA’s Gina McCarthy

The non-partisan watchdog group Open The Books released a mid-November 2015 report showing how the EPA has become a “well-armed militia” with hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars being spent on questionable expenses. These include “high-end luxury furnishings, sports equipment, ongoing paramilitary purchases totaling $715 million for arming and training ‘Special Agents.'” It also shows how the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) funds data mining and equipment allowing the agency to intrude into industrial businesses and carry out “force raids” to execute its regulations.

The new report, which examined the fiscal years 2000 – 2014, found that the EPA’s 2015 budget would rank 42 out of 50 state budgets, and at its peak in 2010, would come in at 38. Since the turn of the century, the EPA has provided $72 billion in federal grants, with over 87 percent of monies flowing to various agencies in local, state or federal governments. “The first thing you see in our report is that the EPA is a massive federal agency,” notes Adam Andrzejewski, founder of the Illinois-based Openthebooks.com.

The rest is divvied up between private entities (6 percent), Native Americans (3%), and colleges and universities across America (3%). More than $50 million EPA dollars since 2000 was funneled to 61 international entities in countries like China and Mexico, even though there is “no apparent connection to the agency’s mandate of safeguarding air and water in the United States.” That would also apply to EPA employees purchasing specially designed ‘encrypted laptops’, badges, insignia, and $48 million on Herman Miller upscale furniture. The EPA also gave $4.3 million in grants to the “National Attorney General Association and four state AGs.”

To put all this in perspective, the EPA grant-making machine has doled out over twenty times (20x) more taxpayer dollars than the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, the largest charitable foundation. And because the EPA employs over 1,000 lawyers, it would be considered the “14th largest law firm in the United States, even though EPA lawyers don’t defend the agency in court,” Andrzejewski says. For that, the Department of Justice handles all court-related matters, and has spent an additional $43 million in additional legal fees defending EPA actions.

The EPA also has a Criminal Enforcement Program (CEP) that has spent roughly $700 million since 2006, according to disclosed budget estimates. These EPA “police” are actually called Special Agents, whose job is to protect the environment and investigate environmental crimes. The EPA disclosed that it had spent tens of millions of dollars on “guns up to 300MM, ammunition up to 300MM, body armor, camouflage and deceptive equipment, unmanned aircraft, amphibious assault ships, radar, night vision, joint Homeland Security projects,” and more. Some of these weapons are twice the size of what you’d find in active war zones.

The agency also employed over 15,000 employees in FY 2014 at a cost of $1.722 billion, and “all employees received a performance bonus except for 3,464.” The average salary for an EPA employee (from mail-room clerk to Chief Administrator) was $111,165, with “7 out of 10 employees making at least $100,000 and 1 in 3 making over $125,000 a year.” They awarded over $143 million in extra performance compensation (on top of their normal bonus) since FY 2007. Since President Obama took office, the EPA has cut nearly 2,000 positions (17,359 in FY2011 to 15,492 in FY2014).

If that sounds like the EPA was becoming more lean and less costly, think again. Since Obama took office, five of the top six highest-budget years occurred on his watch. But Obama isn’t the only president who likes big agencies. Under every president since 1981, the agency’s budget has grown during their respective terms in office. But a sitting president is only half the problem. The other half of the equation is Congress, which approves each budget increase as they are usually bundled in more important legislation that both parties want passed.

For contracted employees, the EPA spent $1.9 billion with the No. 1 category being “Hazardous Removal and Cleanup/Disposal” like the Gold King Mine, a preventable man-made disaster caused by Contractor Environmental Restorations LLC, also hired by the EPA. Since 2000, this same contractor has received the eighth highest revenue from the EPA: $426 million. More worrisome, critics note, is that the report shows the EPA is “spending a tremendous amount of money to buy influence and create an army of activists to support expanding its budget and power.”

The new report also shows that many of the EPA’s grants are “funding politicized programs claiming, for example, ‘pollution from capitalism through the effects of climate change hurts minorities and the poor.'” Worse still, the EPA employed 198 Public Affairs workers, ostensibly to reach out to local communities. But much of this so-called PR work has come under “congressional scrutiny for skirting rules prohibiting agencies from lobbying for rules and regulations.” In 2012 alone, the agency spent $141 million on PR salaries and bonuses totaling $1.5 million since 2007.

Andrzejewski notes that the biggest takeaway from this report is clear: oversight hearings. “Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), head of the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, read our report, and now he wants to conduct hearings on the EPA,” says Andrzejewski. The new report by Open the Books was made possible by the “Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006” sponsored by then-Sen. Tom Coburn (R) and then-Senator Barack Obama.

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