Few people realize just how massive and powerful the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is.
Unlike any other government organization in American history, EPA influences policy in virtually every part of the nation, and it even has significant control over how individuals manage their own property.
Watchdog organization Open the Books (OTB) recently published another edition of its informative "Oversight Report" series, this time focusing on EPA, and many of the findings revealed in the study are truly shocking. Below are five of the most important facts about EPA, drawn from both the Open the Books study and other reputable sources, that should scare the heck out of you.
1. EPA has developed what amounts to a small special operations police force, equipped with military-style weapons.
According to a detailed review of EPA’s checkbook spending, EPA has created an agency-specific force of 200 “Special Agents” equipped with “tactical sets, kits, and outfits,” night vision equipment, “security vehicle services,” and $330,000 worth of “ammunition through 30MM.”
OTB reports EPA has recently spent $1.4 million on “guns up to 30MM,” $143,380 on “guns over 30MM up to 75MM,” and $146,000 on “optical sighting and range equipment.” To put this in perspective, the heavy machine gun mounted on top of the standard M1 Abrams tank used by the U.S. military is .50 cal., or 12.7mm.
2. EPA’s 2015 budget totaled $8.13 billion.
According to reporter Ken Artz, writing for Environment & Climate News, OTB’s Adam Andrzejewski says EPA’s budget is so large, EPA would rank 42nd of 51 if it were a state. EPA’s budget is so large the agency could build a new MetLife Stadium—home of the NFL’s New York Giants and New York Jets and the world’s costliest sports arena—and pay for another World Trade Center tower—the world’s most expensive office tower—and still have more than $2 billion leftover to spend each year.
3. EPA employs more than 1,000 attorneys.
According to fiscal year 2014 data, EPA had 1,020 lawyers on its staff, which OTB says would make EPA the 14th largest law firm in the United States—if, of course, EPA were a law firm. EPA has spent an incredible $1.133 billion on its lawyers since 2007.
4. Since 2000, EPA has given colleges and universities more than $1 billion in grants and even more to private organizations and associations.
How can colleges and universities conduct truly neutral research on environment and climate issues, especially controversial topics such as man-caused global warming, when researchers are dependent on President Barack Obama’s EPA for funding?
The schools receiving the most funding from EPA since 2000 are the University of California ($146.1 million), University of Washington ($87.2 million), and the University of North Carolina ($74.9 million).
The amount given to colleges and universities is disturbing, yet it pales in comparison to the vast sums of money EPA has lavished on numerous private organizations, many of which are not primarily concerned with environmental issues. For instance, since 2000, EPA has given $314.8 million to the National Older Worker Career Center and more than $100 million each to the National Caucus & Center on Black Aging, Senior Service America, National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, and the National Asian Pacific Center on Aging.
5. The average EPA employee earns twice as much as the average U.S. household, and that doesn’t include bonuses.
OTB reports the average EPA employee salary was $111,000 in fiscal year 2014. More than 10,500 EPA employees earn more than $100,000 per year, and nearly 4,300 earn greater than $125,000 per year. If two EPA employees get married, their household income would put them in the top 4 percent nationally, and in some markets, they would be in the top 1 percent.
Why do we even need EPA?
Because legitimate interstate environmental issues can arise, it was reasonable for the federal government to create an environmental agency four decades ago. However, now that nearly every state has an environmental agency of its own, the vast majority of what EPA does is unnecessary and could be shifted to state environmental agencies. In fact, as my colleague Jay Lehr of The Heartland Institute recommends, all of EPA’s activities (other than legitimate research functions) could be moved to a committee of the states, through an interstate compact, allowing the states to manage their own environmental resources and to work together to resolve interstate disputes.
Even if one could make a persuasive argument in favor of maintaining the tremendous power EPA now has, how can any reasonable person justify the well-armed, multi-billion-dollar behemoth this government organization has become?
Justin Haskins (Jhaskins@heartland.org) is editor of The Heartland Institute and the author of Heartland’s weekly Consumer Power Report.
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