SEN. GRASSLEY: EPA Is Throwing Taxpayer Money Around Without a Care in the World

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Floor remarks from Sen. Chuck Grassley:

Mr. President,

I come to the floor to discuss with my colleagues the fact that agencies of the federal government aren’t spending taxpayers’ money properly, and also how they aren’t cooperating with the constitutional responsibility of the Congress to make sure the money is spent in a legal way.

In this case, I’m here to talk about the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). On April 13, 2023, I began an investigation into an EPA program called the Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem Solving Cooperative Agreement Program.

That’s quite a name, isn’t it?

On February 22, 2024, I issued a preliminary report on my investigation.

That EPA program dishes out millions of taxpayer dollars to left-leaning non-profits.

The funding is from President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which was opposed by Senate Republicans.

According to the EPA, the purpose of this environmental justice program is to address environmental and public health issues in underserved communities.

As part of that program, the EPA sent 34 individual non-profits a combined $4.3 million, with each receiving up to $200,000.

The money was meant to be spent for the purpose of improving the environment – and I don’t have any trouble with that – but I think you’ll see the grantees didn’t use the money for what it was intended for.

I wrote to all 34 grantees because I wanted to know how they spent that taxpayer money. I wrote to the EPA because I wanted to know how it was conducting oversight of that spending.

You see, it isn’t only Congress that has the responsibility to oversee the [taxpayer] money spent, but it’s also up to these agencies to make sure they spend the money accordingly.

It’s a pretty simple request: I want EPA to show their work – how’s the taxpayer money being spent?

Well, to this EPA, apparently that question’s just too much for them to handle.

So, guess what happened after I sent the oversight letters?

The EPA interfered and told these 34 grantees that they – meaning the EPA – would handle the Grassley request. This led many grantees to refuse compliance with my congressional oversight request and also obstruct my efforts of getting answers to the taxpayers.

Some grantees were so emboldened by the EPA’s obstructive conduct that they sent my staff emails, and this is just one example, like this:

“We report to the EPA and they’re responding on our behalf.  You can make your request to them. We won’t be responding further. Don’t contact us any further.”

That’s how they treat this Senator doing his constitutional responsibilities. And obviously, you can tell from that quote, that’s obstruction.

What the Biden EPA has done is obstruct a core constitutional requirement of the Congress. That is, knowing how appropriated taxpayer money is being used by the Executive Branch.

Moreover, the EPA couldn’t even respond on behalf of grantees, because the EPA doesn’t even possess the records that I requested from the non-profits.

And that’s a whole different problem for the EPA.

Specifically, I asked grantees to:

“Provide all records showing how the taxpayer money your organization received was spent. In your production, please provide a financial summary showing what the taxpayer money was spent on.”

Amazingly, the EPA can’t fulfill this request for grantees because at this point in the life cycle of the grant, it doesn’t possess the records that show how taxpayer money has been spent.

Accordingly, except for me asking these questions, the EPA wouldn’t have possessed these records at this point in the grant program.

The EPA only has financial records showing how much money the grantees have drawn down from the overall grant.

The EPA emailed my staff:

“At the current stage in the grant process, this is the only document detailing financial progress that grantees are required to submit to the Agency.”

For context, the “only document” referred to by the EPA doesn’t show how, and on what, taxpayer money was spent by each grantee.

That’s beyond embarrassing.  It’s a disgrace and a slap in the face to the taxpayers who work so hard for their money that the EPA has failed to track their money.

The EPA is throwing taxpayer’s money around without a care in the world.

My preliminary oversight report also found that some of the projects didn’t even pass the smell test.

For example, grantees that did respond to us, reported projects like empathetic listening trainings, tree walk-and-talks, making musical presentations to their communities and buying clothing.

And, it turns out the lion’s share of the money so far is being used for more salaries of the people on the non-profits’ payroll, and other employee benefits.

Many of the 34 grantees were unable to provide records showing how much money their projects cost.

Some were able to provide those records I asked for. Then why didn’t all of the grantees?

Going back to what I previously said, the EPA said they didn’t have to answer.

The taxpayer has a right to know these financial details.

With Americans suffering from record inflation and being forced to make difficult financial decisions, the EPA’s obstructive conduct towards Congress and the EPA’s weak and incompetent oversight are insults to the American taxpayer.

To make it worse, the EPA program I’ve talked about is just getting started. The EPA plans to spend tens of millions of dollars more in the coming years on similar programs.

They would spend that money, according to what I’m able to assess at this point, on more salaries and benefits for the employees of the organizations, rather than helping solve our environmental problems.

I imagine one would be hard-pressed to find any American taxpayer that would be satisfied with the EPA’s conduct in this matter.

It’s time for the EPA to do real oversight of how all this money is spent.

The American taxpayer deserves better from its government.

So, as usual, the Grassley oversight will continue.


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