GAO: EPA’s Social Media Push For Waters Of The United States Rule Illegal

Date: December 15, 2015

Finding Comes As Congress Considers Blocking Rule In End-Of-Year Budget Debate

In a finding that could lend credence to Congressional efforts to block the rule, the Government Accountability Office has announced that the EPA broke federal law by urging support for President Obama’s clean water mandate on social media channels. The New York Times reported that the GAO found that the EPA “engaged in ‘covert propaganda’ in violation of federal law when it blitzed social media” to encourage the public to support the “controversial rule intended to better protect the nation’s streams and surface waters.” In its “Washington Wire” blog, the Wall Street Journal said the GAO identified at least two laws potentially broken by the EPA, pertaining to grassroots lobbying and the agency’s failure to disclose that it was the source of the information. The AP reported that the EPA “said in a statement that it disagrees with the GAO’s assessment, but will fulfill whatever reporting requirements are necessary.”

Considering the political implications of the GAO’s findings, Politico pointed out that the GAO report “comes as lawmakers are considering blocking the rule through a policy rider in the end-of-year spending deal.” Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman James Inhofe (R-OK) said, “EPA’s illegal attempts to manufacture public support for its Waters of the United States rule and sway Congressional opinion regarding legislation to address that rule have undermined the integrity of the rulemaking process and demonstrated how baseless this unprecedented expansion of EPA regulatory authority really is.”

What Happens Next

Though such violations can be punishable by fines or jail time, in this case the GAO has said the EPA must “find out how much money was spent by staff involved in these violations, then write a report to Mr. Obama and Congress acknowledging the violation,” the New York Times reported.

What This Means For Small Businesses

News that the EPA overstepped its authority in promoting its burdensome, anti-small business Waters of the United States rule is hardly surprising. This represents politics as usual for the current administration. However, those opposed to this egregious government oversight may now have more evidence with which to fight back against EPA encroachment on small businesses across the US.

Additional Reading

The Hill also reported on the GAO’s findings.

Note: this article is intended to keep small business owners up on the latest news. It does not necessarily represent the policy stances of NFIB.

Related Content: Small Business News | Agriculture

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