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Ernst Calls Out EPA’s Illegal Use of Taxpayer Dollars to Rally Support for Harmful WOTUS Rule

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) today released the following statement after the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the “congressional watchdog”, issued a report that found the EPA’s social media campaign to promote its flawed expansion of the Waters of the U.S. Rule (WOTUS) broke the law:

“Today’s report issued by the GAO has confirmed what many in Iowa have already suspected, that the EPA was on shaky legal ground when it decided to use taxpayer dollars to lobby the American public to support its harmful rule. The agency used election-style tactics to gin up support for this misguided rule, and today, GAO – the one responsible for investigating how the federal government spends taxpayer dollars – has called the EPA out for its egregious actions.

“The EPA repeatedly touted the ‘over one million’ supportive comments they received on this rule, but this report clearly shows that many of those comments were solicited by the EPA in an illegal manner. It is now more apparent than ever that this WOTUS rule is ill-conceived and nothing more than a blatant power grab by an agency that is committed to expanding its reach over Iowa. I remain committed to scrapping this rule entirely.”

According to GAO’s report, “EPA’s use of Thunderclap constituted covert propaganda, in violation of the publicity or propaganda prohibition.” GAO also concluded that “…EPA hyperlinks to the NRDC and Surfrider Foundation webpages provided in the EPA blog post constitute grassroots lobbying in violation of the grassroots lobbying prohibition.”

In May, the New York Times wrote an article regarding the concerns with EPA’s actions on social media.

Ernst’s Efforts to Scrap WOTUS Rule:

  • Senator Ernst’s resolution of disapproval to scrap the WOTUS rule passed the Senate with bipartisan support.
  • Last month, Senator Ernst released a statement following a federal court ruling to issue a nationwide stay, suspending implementation of WOTUS.
  • The Iowa Senator cosponsored Senator Barrasso’s proposal, which provided clear principles and directions for the EPA and ACE to craft a WOTUS rule that takes into consideration positions held by key stakeholders.
  • In May, Senator Ernst denounced the EPA’s finalized WOTUS rule as harmful to Iowa.
  • In May, Senator Ernst also introduced Iowa farmer and small business owner Darcy Maulsby to testify on the impact of WOTUS before the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, and share her personal experience with the harmful impact and overregulation by the EPA in Iowa.
  • In February, Senator Ernst invited EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy to Iowa to see the potential impact of overregulation in Iowa. Administrator McCarthy has yet to take Senator Ernst up on this offer.

Impact on Iowa:

According to an analysis by the Iowa Farm Bureau, an expanded definition of the WOTUS rule would expand EPA jurisdiction to over approximately 97 percent of Iowa. See map below:

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