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Newhouse Demands EPA Halt Federal Grants during Ongoing Investigation into “What’s Upstream”

December 6, 2016
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA), expressed his extreme concern to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy regarding the agency’s decision to continue awarding federal grants despite an ongoing investigation into the misuse of taxpayer dollars in the anti-farmer “What’s Upstream” campaign in Washington State. In a letter sent today, Rep. Newhouse urged the EPA to prohibit subgrant awards to “What’s Upstream” in a recent National Estuary Program grant of $25 million over five years made to the National Indian Fisheries Commission – of which organizers of “What’s Upstream” were subgrant recipients – until the completion of the investigation by the EPA Office of Inspector General. Rep. Newhouse released the following statement:

“It is unconscionable that before farmers in Washington State receive answers on how taxpayer dollars were used improperly to smear them and to lobby lawmakers, the EPA is continuing to shell out taxpayer dollars with zero accountability,” said Rep. Newhouse. “The EPA has not fulfilled its promise to complete a full review of how anti-farmer propaganda was funded by the taxpayer before making additional grants. I urge Administrator McCarthy in the strongest terms to halt any further awards to subgrantees that participated in the ‘Whats Upstream’ campaign until EPA gets to the bottom of the misuse of taxpayer funds.”

Read the full text of Rep. Newhouse’s letter here.

Background:

EPA Region 10 funded the What’s Upstream website and advocacy campaign that attempts to influence legislators for greater regulation of farmers and ranchers. In April of this year, Administrator McCarthy acknowledged that the EPA was “distressed by the use of the money and the tone of [the What’s Upstream] campaign” and called for a full review of the use of taxpayer funds for the campaign “before additional monies are spent.”

In April, the EPA admitted that it should not have funded a campaign in Washington State known as What's Upstream, due to that campaign’s brazen lobbying of state legislators in contravention of federal law. The What's Upstream campaign, which was wholly funded by the EPA, used grant awards to fund a website, radio ads, and billboards depicting dead fish and polluted water, urging individuals to contact their state legislators and, “hold the agricultural industry to the same level of responsibility as other industries.” A large, red button on the website labeled, “Take action! We’ve made it simple,” allowed visitors to easily send an email to their state legislators advocating for 100-foot stream buffer zones and other policies. An EPA Inspector General’s report from 2014 had warned that the EPA region responsible for awarding the grant had insufficient protections in place to ensure awardees were not using funds for advocacy, propaganda, and/or lobbying efforts.

According to a December, 2015 report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the EPA violated federal lobbying and advocacy laws by funding social media campaigns supporting EPA’s Waters of the United States (WOTUS) Rule.