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June 07, 2013

The EPA Is The Underreported Scandal

If the news weren't so saturated with scandals right now, the broadcast evening newscasts would have had a different segment each night this week on the EPA. As we were doing the podcast last night, Drew, Andy and I tried to recount them all and actually came up short on the first try. There's just that many.

I'd really like to keep the EPA scandals in the spotlight because they run the gamut from basic bureaucratic waste, to malicious politically-motivated abuse, to direct malfeasance by the EPA's highest appointee. Here they are:

(1) EPA awarded former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson's alias, Richard Windsor, an ethics award.
Yes, a fake person -- an alias created to avoid disclosure obligations and keep Lisa Jackson from having to read all the email in her actual email account -- won an ethics award.

There's two immediate take-aways to this scandal. First, it's right at the top. None of the standard Obama Administration excuses -- "it was a low-level employee; I was never informed" or "I do so many of these, I don't even read them" -- will work here. Jackson knew, she was complicit, and now she's conveniently gone -- the beneficiary of a cushy job at Apple just days after Democrats haled the company into hearings to browbeat it for obeying tax law.

Second, it demonstrates the empty "meritocracies" of the bureaucracy. Windsor's name was on a list for completing a mandatory annual requirement, so of course "he" got an award.

(2) EPA targeted conservative groups for disfavored treatment.
This scandal is a direct parallel to the IRS targeting. The EPA gets FOIA requests from conservative and from liberal groups. Generally, the requesting person or entity has to pay for the cost of searching, compiling, and printing the records either on paper or CD. And these fees can range up into the hundreds of thousands of dollars per FOIA. But there are waivers for these fees. You can guess who gets the waivers and who doesn't.

The response of the EPA to this is laugh-out-loud funny. First came the blanket denial. Acting EPA Administrator Bob Perciasepe told a House committe, "our policy is to treat everybody the same." And then he added -- illogically, astonishingly -- that the agency was "considering" launching an investigation. Considering it!

That's one of the reasons I'd like to see some light on this agency. They're still in liberal la-la land, where they think they can pretend to be concerned about a scandal and then go back to business as usual.

Considering it!

(3) EPA contractors turned part of an EPA warehouse into their own personal rec rooms and gym.
Here's an almost banal example of bureaucratic waste. Contractors let loose to do their thing with only belated oversight. Yes, they were paid to happily build their clubhouse and gym.

EPA just found out last month and, to its credit, severed ties with the contracting company. But the agency was left with a bunch of unanswered questions, foremost among them: how did this happen? Boy, wouldn't we all like to know.

(4) EPA leaked personal info of farm and cattle facilities to environmental activists.
This scandal is the EPA version of the IRS's leak of National Organization for Marriage's records. A group of people (80,000 people) that some agency employees have reason not to like suddenly have their personal information show up in the hands of their political adversaries.

The EPA has asked environmental activist groups Earth Justice, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Pew Charitable Trust, to give the information back, but . . . c'mon. Come. On. I suppose at this point we should be grateful (?) the EPA's doing more than merely considering asking for the information back. No word on if anyone was disciplined for sending the personal information (it was inadvertently included in FOIA requests), but I wouldn't hold my breath. Come to think of it, I wonder if the groups that got the info also had their FOIA fees waived...

Four simultaneous scandals is the most of any agency we're talking about right now. It's gonna take a lot more attention before the EPA is forced to clean house. More than a couple congressional letters, I would think, which is why I'm writing about it now. I don't know if it's because EPA is relatively more popular than some of the other agencies embroiled in scandal now, or if these scandals simply affect fewer people directly, but this is probably the best chance we've had in a while to curtail EPA's prosperity-destroying activities.

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posted by Gabriel Malor at 06:18 PM

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