EPA’s Flood of “Environmental Justice” Dollars May Harm Cleanups in Underserved

EPA’s Flood of “Environmental Justice” Dollars May Harm Cleanups in Underserved

  • May 9, 2023

You would think that an infusion of tens of billions of tax dollars to the Environmental Protection Agency would be greeted with unqualified jubilation by agency personnel. But not by Sean O’Donnell. He’s EPA’s inspector general, and if the official in charge of oversight has reservations about his office’s ability to oversee the massive windfall, Congress and the public should take note.

At a recent hearing of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, O’Donnell fretted about his office’s capacity to oversee the new money for environmental justice and other programs added by recent legislation. For example, “the [Inflation Reduction Act] gave the EPA over $40 billion for entirely new programs that are going to entirely new recipients,” he stated. Yet “Congress didn’t fund oversight of this … That’s faster money to newer recipients and we are very concerned about … the ability to do effective oversight.”

That much additional funding for programs with no additional resources for the IG to monitor how it is spent is bound to create increased potential for waste, fraud, and abuse. Will this influx divert the IG’s attention to the new dollars at the expense of overseeing existing programs? This could be a recipe for disaster for some communities.

To add a wrinkle to this tale, the lead negotiator for the third-party neutral at Diamond Alkali was none other than the same former career EPA official, now in the private sector, who designed the method presented to, and rejected by, Congress. In addition, this former official appears to have participated in matters involving this site both during and after federal service in a way in which my organization believes violates federal ethics rules and that was the subject of a recent complaint filed with the EPA IG.

Read more