The shameful federal agency that was responsible, in large part, for poisoning scores of mostly African-American children with lead in Flint, Mich., as well as one of the worst river contaminations in Colorado history, has a secret slush fund it uses to fund shadowy operations that are beyond oversight.
As reported by The Daily Caller, the Environmental Protection Agency fund, which amounts to some $6.3 billion, comes from some 1,300 obscure spending accounts that are essentially out of reach of Congress, public watchdogs and the media.
The accounts, created via EPA’s “Superfund” program, are not technically secret because the agency does acknowledge their existence. However, trying to get specific details about deposits into the accounts, as well as expenditures, has proven difficult at best.
The DC reported that the EPA has deposited more than $6.3 billion into an estimated 1,308 special accounts over the course of 25 years, from 1990–2015, according to the agency’s website, having spent more than half of that amount. The agency has not disclosed specifics of what it spent the money on, or released any public information regarding account balances or expenses.
Some of these expenses, as we have reported in the past, are most likely being used to fund EPA paramilitary teams like the one sent to terrorize the small Alaska community of Chicken in the fall of 2013, for alleged violations of the Clean Water Act.
“Did it really take eight armed men and a squad-size display of paramilitary force to check for dirty water? Some of the miners, who run small businesses, say they felt intimidated. Others wonder if the actions of the agents put everyone at risk. When your family business involves collecting gold far from nowhere, unusual behavior can be taken as a sign someone might be trying to stage a robbery. How is a remote placer miner to know the people in the jackets saying POLICE really are police?”
As further noted by The DC, the EPA’s “special accounts” are generally financed by settlements between the agency and parties held responsible for pollution at Superfund sites. Congress does not get a say on how funds are spent once they are deposited.
“This is the very definition of an out-of-control agency, if they can raise their own money and not have to go to Congress to have it appropriated,” Myron Ebell, director of the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Center for Energy and Environment told The Daily Caller.
However, an EPA spokeswoman told the news service that her agency managed the accounts “in accordance with the law, congressional intent, and EPA policy and guidance.”
The spokeswoman continued, “In fact, EPA management of Superfund special accounts has been reviewed periodically. EPA has responded to [Government Accountability Office], [inspector general (IG)], congressional, public and press inquiries regarding special accounts.”
However, none of those reviews have occurred recently, meaning they are not done regularly, either.
The EPA’s IG wrote in 2009 that the, “EPA lacks transparency in its public reporting of special accounts. Such transparency is needed to understand how special account funds are being utilized.”
Two years before that assessment, the Center for Public Integrity reported that the EPA had been diverting funds from those accounts, noting that “there are hundreds of these accounts, and the EPA doesn’t need congressional approval to spend the money in them, unlike the Superfund trust fund.”
The center added:
“Before 2000, all money recovered from companies for site cleanup work performed by the EPA went back to the Superfund trust fund to be spent on cleaning up other sites. But a little-noticed change in agency policy that year allowed cleanup reimbursements reached in settlements to be tucked away into site-specific accounts to be used only for future work at those sites. …
“The EPA Inspector General’s office, which has criticized the agency for holding all of these funds in special accounts longer than needed, is currently reviewing how the money is managed. Other federal oversight agencies also are scrutinizing the accounts.”
In the years since its 2007 report, the center has not reexamined the Superfund accounts.
“EPA generally does not report financial information on individual special accounts due to potential enforcement and/or procurement activities at individual sites,” an agency spokesman admitted, adding that “aggregate information on special accounts, beginning in [fiscal year] 2011, can be found … within the congressional justification document.”
However, as The DC noted, the disclosure is very limited in scope and buried in the document.
In recent years, Congress has appropriated some $1 billion in Superfund activities. The special accounts also accrue millions of dollars in interest each year.
Also, The DC investigation found that the EPA will often begin spending trust fund dollars on Superfund sites before ever securing funds from responsible polluters. Furthermore, the agency deposits all settlement money into a special account instead of reimbursing the trust fund first.
“That means trust fund money EPA doesn’t immediately replace is unavailable for its congressionally approved purpose of cleaning orphan sites. The EPA keeps such funds in special accounts for years, or sometimes decades, according to the IG,” The DC reported.
All of this, you will recall, is coming from an agency involved in covering up the lead poisoning of children in Flint, while shirking responsibility for the massive spill of millions of gallons of toxic water from the Gold King Mine in Colorado.
A slush fund hidden from Congress and the American people is about the last thing a rogue EPA needs.
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