In an opinion issued on Dec. 14, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) announced that U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials have violated anti-lobbying provisions of acts passed by Congress. The violations occurred as part of the agency’s attempt to sway public opinion about a sweeping revision of the Clean Water Act, known as the Waters of the United States rule.
As GAO General Counsel Susan A. Poling explained, “we conclude that EPA violated the described provisions through the use of social media in association with its rulemaking efforts to define ‘Waters of the United States’” in fiscal years 2014 and 2015.
The GAO also determined that EPA officials engaged in a “covert propaganda” campaign in their use of social media. This campaign included hyperlinks to advocacy organizations such as the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Poling submitted the opinion in a letter to U.S. Sen. James Inhofe, chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.
“It’s clear from this report that EPA orchestrated this matter in a biased fashion,” said past American Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman.
Stallman called upon Congress to ditch the rule. “Now that it has become clear that the agency used illegal tactics to manufacture ill-informed support for the rule, Congress should act immediately to prohibit implementation of this rule, which is the product of an unlawful and misguided process,” he said.
The GAO opinion is posted at http://www.gao.gov/products/D12336.