November 17, 2015
A newly released audit of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by the Illinois-based watchdog organization Open the Books discovered hundreds of millions of dollars of questionable expenses, including high-end luxury furnishings, sports equipment, ongoing paramilitary purchases totaling $715 million for arming and training "Special Agents," and on data mining and equipment enabling the agency to snoop on industry and prepare deadly force raids to enforce EPA regulations.
Openthebooks.com publishes a report every quarter on the spending of a different government agency. This 44-page snapshot captures the size, scale, and scope of EPA with information from a careful examination of tens of thousands of checks written by the agency totaling more than $93 billion from 2000 to 2014.
‘A Massive Federal Agency’
"The first thing you see in our report is that the EPA is a massive federal agency," said Adam Andrzejewski, founder of Openthebooks.com.
EPA’s fiscal year 2015 budget totaled $8.13 billion. If EPA became its own state, its budget would rank 42nd among all state budgets, Andrzejewski says. EPA employs more than 1,000 attorneys, which means if EPA were a law firm, it would rank as the 14th largest domestic law firm in the United States, even though EPA lawyers don’t defend the agency in court, Andrzejewski notes. The Department of Justice has this responsibility, and between 1998 and 2010, it spent $43 million in additional legal fees defending EPA.
‘Adversarial Position with American Business’
"The EPA was established under an executive order by Richard M. Nixon, a Republican president," Andrzejewski said. "It’s interesting that its first leader was an attorney: William D. Ruckelshaus. He immediately made it clear the new federal agency was in an adversarial position with American business."
Andrzejewski says EPA has taken on a larger paramilitary role in recent years.
"With the help of a bipartisan 1988 agreement, it has begun to arm its police quite literally to the nth degree," Andrzejewski said.
Not content to arm its agents with typical small arms, the report reveals EPA spent more than $1.4 million dollars on 30 millimeter weapons (more than double the size of the 50 caliber machine guns mounted on Sherman tanks) and approximately $10,000 on 300 mm artillery weapons. It also spent millions of dollars on ammunition, body armor, night vision equipment, and armored personnel carriers.
More than $50 million of EPA funds since 2000 went to international organizations in countries such as China and Mexico, with no apparent connection to the agency’s mandate of safeguarding air and water in the United States.
"If you wanted to sum up the takeaway from this report, it is this: oversight hearings," said Andrzejewski. "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."
Accused of Buying Influence
John Dale Dunn, a physician, lawyer and Heartland Institute policy advisor, says the report shows EPA is spending a tremendous amount of money to buy influence and create an army of activists to support expanding its budget and power.
Information in the report shows EPA has distributed $72 billion in federal grants since 2000. The largest private grant-making organization, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, gave only $3.3 billion in grants through 2013.
Many of EPA’s grants have gone to relatively new environmental education and environmental justice programs at colleges and universities. The report states EPA grants are funding politicized programs claiming, for example, "pollution from capitalism through the effects of climate change hurts minorities and the poor."
In 2012, the report notes, EPA employed 198 "Public Affairs" workers, with the agency spending more than $141.4 million in salaries and another $1.5 million in performance bonuses on public affairs since 2007. Much of EPA’s public relations work has come under the scrutiny of Congress for skirting rules prohibiting agencies from lobbying for rules and regulations.
"Agency tyranny and confiscatory agency activities are the real danger," Dunn said. "The EPA is buying an army of scientists and economists, as well as mandarins and apparatchiks.
"All the money EPA spent arming itself is miniscule compared to what they spent prostituting scientists," Dunn said.
Kenneth Artz ([email protected]) writes from Dallas, Texas.