Crawford, Gibbs, Marino to Seek Environmental Protection Agency Investigation
Washington D.C.— Earlier today, more than 100 Members of Congress joined Representative Rick Crawford (AR-1), Representative Bob Gibbs (OH-7), and Representative Tom Marino (PA-10) in sending a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Inspector General (OIG). The letter requests that the OIG open a formal investigation into the EPA’s unprecedented grassroots lobbying effort to promote the “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rulemaking, first reported in a New York Times article in May of this year. A copy of the letter can be found here.
All rulemakings, particularly ones of such an enormous scope and significant consequence as the WOTUS rule, require stakeholder engagement to the strongest degree possible. However, in an effort to misrepresent the concerns of the affected public, the EPA used social media and possibly colluded with advocacy organizations to generate support for its actions. Anti-lobbying statutes and U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) guidelines prohibit agency employees from “engaging in substantial ‘grass roots’ lobbying” and from “provid[ing] administrative support for the lobbying activities of private organizations", as such activities undermine the spirit of the public comment period.
Representative Rick Crawford:
“Not only are the EPA’s actions potentially illegal, but the most essential and democratic component of the rule-making process was abused and corrupted in a way that manipulated the public to help justify the Agency’s actions. Rulemakings by unelected agency officials should take into account all the views of the affected public – not just its own and its political allies."
Representative Bob Gibbs:
“If the EPA colluded with political entities like the Sierra Club and Organizing for America to promote this regulation, this will be just one more issue that troubles me about the Waters of the United States rule process. By stacking the deck in their favor, the EPA abused and discredited the public comment process. I hope that the OIG conducts a rigorous, impartial investigation to determine whether any federal anti-lobbying laws were broken.”
Representative Tom Marino:
“It is not surprising to me that we hear of these kinds of allegations about the EPA. For years this agency has sought to push a radical political agenda instead of focusing on making rules in an open and transparent manner. The American people deserve a government that is responsive and accountable for its actions. Agencies like the EPA must be impartial and separated from political influence from advocacy organizations. The EPA should be investigated for possible wrongdoing and open to full exposure of its rulemaking and advocacy activity.”
The EPA consistently made claims that it had received over one million comments on the rule, and about 90 percent of them were supportive. However, according the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, only 20,567 of those comments were considered “unique,” and of those, only 10 percent were considered substantive. The vast majority of comments – more than 98 percent – appeared to be mass mailings generated by the EPA’s lobbying efforts. So while it is clear that EPA undertook an unprecedented campaign to generate support for the WOTUS rule, whether or not the Agency’s actions became illegal actions in violation of anti-lobbying statutes is unclear. The attached letter requests that the EPA’s Office of Inspector General investigate all matters relevant to EPA’s efforts in generating support for the WOTUS rule, including the EPA’s engagement and coordination with outside organizations.