The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) broke federal anti-lobbying laws during the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rulemaking according to the non-partisan Government Accountability Office (GAO). The findings support the claims of the National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association (NSSGA) and other opponents of the rule, that the rulemaking process was tainted in addition to problems with the rule itself.
The GAO found that the EPA “violated prohibitions against publicity or propaganda and grassroots lobbying” with its social media campaign to encourage public comment in support of its rule, particularly efforts to urge members of Congress to support the rule. This will be helpful in NSSGA’s litigation against the rule, which charges EPA of “engaging in an unprecedented advocacy campaign that led to a distorted and biased comment process.
The WOTUS rule dramatically expands the EPA’s jurisdiction under the guise of protecting waters, yet the rule lacks sound scientific or legal justification for doing so. U.S. courts have already enacted a nationwide hold on WOTUS implementation, following litigation from NSSGA, industry groups and states.
Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said GAO’s determination that EPA violated a ban on covert propaganda and grassroots lobbying is especially troubling. “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,” he said.