Friday, October 16, 2015

Inside the EPA: military weapons, designer desks…and nukes?

By Tori Richards

A congressional committee will investigate reports that the Environmental Protection Agency wasted billions of dollars, including an effort to create its own militia with a prosecution arm to mirror the FBI’s.

Rep. Lamar Smith, R-TX, told that a House committee will dig into allegations the EPA bought designer furniture and sporting goods equipment, and handed out hefty employee bonuses and grants to foreign countries – including China.

The charges are outlined in a recent report by Open the Books, a non-profit dedicated to transparency and oversight of government spending. The group analyzed agency spending beginning in 2000.

Despite budget sequestration, which mandated cutbacks and no raises, the EPA has  thrived with its $8.13-billion budget, up $500 million from 2009. In fact, every president has increased the budget since Reagan in 1981.

“How can the EPA justify spending taxpayer dollars on questionable items like luxury furnishings and sports equipment?” asked Smith. “The agency also appears to have funneled millions of dollars to organizations outside the U.S. The EPA needs to remember they are accountable to the American taxpayer and should justify every dollar they spend.”

Smith, who heads the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, reviewed a copy of the Open the Books report provided by Watchdog, and said the committee “intends to investigate the possible misuse of public funds.”

The EPA is already on Smith’s bad side, withholding requested documents pertaining to the Animas River spill in Colorado as the committee prepared for a Sept. 9 hearing. During the hearing, an EPA official told the committee the Gold King Mine was walled off as a result of a cave-in. In fact,  the EPA created the barricade, which allowed water to collect behind it — bursting when a hole was drilled, mine owner Todd Hennis told Watchdog.

Lawmakers in that hearing and another committee from the Senate blasted the EPA for its heavy-handed military-style treatment of citizens and companies who inadvertently create spills by “running them out of business” and “forcing them to go bankrupt.”

Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-TX, said the EPA should be contacting the FBI for heavy-duty law enforcement action if any is needed.

Regardless, some-200 EPA ‘special agents’ have the “latest state-of-the-art ‘policing’ gear such as ‘guns and ammunition up to 300MM,’ ‘camouflage and other deceptive equipment,’ ‘night vision,’ ‘unmanned aircraft,’ ‘radar,’ ‘body armor,’ ‘surveillance equipment,’ ‘mobile GPS monitors,’ and (they) train and investigate frequently alongside joint projects with Homeland Security,” the report said.

The cost? Nearly $5 million. This doesn’t include the $45.6 million per year spent for agents’ salaries. More than 1,000 attorneys back them up, costing $1.3 billion since 2007.

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