Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Watchdog: EPA broke law in using social media to lobby for support of Waters of the U.S. rules

The Environmental Protection Agency's social media campaign to promote its Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rules "violated legal provisions barring federal agencies from engaging in congressional and grassroots lobbying," said the Government Accountability Office, Annie Snider reports for Politico. "In particular, auditors concluded that the agency's use of a 'Thunderclap' campaign constituted 'covert propaganda.' The campaign encouraged users to redistribute messages in support of the rule without identifying the EPA as the source of those messages."

EPA disagreed with the watchdog's assessment, Snider writes. Spokeswoman Monica Lee said in a statement: “We maintain that using social media to educate the public about our work is an integral part of our mission. We have an obligation to inform all stakeholders about environmental issues and encourage participation in the rulemaking process. We use social media tools just like all organizations to stay connected and inform people across the country about our activities.”

"The rule, also called the Clean Water Rule, is aimed at clearing up years’ worth of confusion about which streams and wetlands are protected under the Clean Water Act," Snider writes. "The Obama administration says it is just a clarification, but opponents say it would vastly expand federal regulators’ reach across the country’s landscape." (Read more)

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