Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA), House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX), and Rep. Brad Ashford (D-NE) were joined on April 20 by 142 Members on a bipartisan letter to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy. The Members request answers on EPA Region 10’s funding of whatsupstream.com website and advocacy campaign in Washington State that attempts to influence legislators for greater regulation of farmers and ranchers.
Rep. Newhouse said, “Federal law is clear, and the EPA knows better than to be engaged in the misuse of taxpayer dollars for anti-farmer publicity campaigns that lobby for more regulations. Despite previous EPA violations of federal laws pertaining to funding propaganda, advocacy, and lobbying efforts, it is troubling that the EPA has allowed taxpayer funds to be used to attack farmers. The EPA must be held accountable to cooperate fully with oversight investigations and to end the pattern of taxpayer-funded lobbying efforts.”
According to Chairman Conaway, “This is one more example of the lack of appropriate oversight by EPA. I applaud Rep. Newhouse and many of my colleagues for holding EPA accountable for the unlawful misuse of federal funds. America’s farmers and ranchers deserve a government that will defend their cause and work to make sure it has a thriving future. These actions by EPA, however, do the opposite.”
“I am disappointed in the actions taken by the EPA to lobby Washington State legislators using federal funds," said Rep. Ashford. "With trust in our public officials at an all-time low, it is imperative that our federal agencies respect federal laws. I join my colleagues in the House and Senate to reprimand the EPA and call on them to fully cooperate with investigations. I do not want to see this misuse of federal funds impact other states, such as Nebraska.”
Earlier this month, the EPA admitted in news reports that it should not have funded a campaign in Washington State known as whatsupstream.com, due to that campaign’s brazen lobbying of state legislators in contravention of federal law. The whatsupstream.com campaign, which was wholly funded by the EPA, used grant awards to fund a website, radio ads, and billboards depicting dead fish and polluted water, urging individuals to contact their state legislators and, “hold the agricultural industry to the same level of responsibility as other industries.” A large, red button on the website labeled, “Take action! We’ve made it simple,” allowed visitors to easily send an email to their state legislators advocating for 100-foot stream buffer zones and other policies. An EPA Inspector General’s report from 2014 had warned that the EPA region responsible for awarding the grant had insufficient protections in place to ensure awardees were not using funds for advocacy, propaganda, and/or lobbying efforts.
According to a December 2015 report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the EPA violated federal lobbying and advocacy laws by funding social media campaigns supporting EPA’s Waters of the United States (WOTUS) Rule.
The letter and the list of signers in alphabetical order are included below. For the full text of the letter with footnotes, click here.