The Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power today held a legislative hearing to discuss H.R. 4255, the "Accountability in Grants Act," which would prohibit the EPA from awarding grants under Section 103 of the Clean Air Act for foreign projects. Since 2001, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has awarded grants to foreign recipients totaling over $100 million under Section 103 and other authorities. In addition, EPA also awards grants to domestic recipients for the purpose of carrying out projects in locations outside the United States.
Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-KY) authored the legislation in response to information arising from the committee's investigation into EPA's spending of taxpayer dollars overseas. The committee released a report on EPA's foreign grants last summer.
Members expressed concern that spending money on projects abroad goes beyond the scope of EPA's core mission and is irresponsible given the country's mounting debt and deficits.
"There is nothing in the Clean Air Act directing the EPA to send tax dollars abroad, and the American people would not be pleased to know we are subsidizing foreign projects at a time when millions of Americans are out of work and the national debt just eclipsed $16 trillion," said Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI).
Whitfield explained that his bill only applies to EPA grants and financial assistance under Section 103 of the Clean Air Act. "This bill does not impact any other provision of law, including those invoked for humanitarian aid and emergency assistance. Foreign aid is another issue that could be discussed at a later date, but those efforts are properly handled by the State Department -- not EPA," said Whitfield. "I might also add that even if you don't want to limit EPA's foreign authority, I hope we can all agree that this money would be better spent building a new bridge, finishing a dam, or directly improving environmental quality with projects right here in the United States, so that we can grow our economy here at home rather than overseas. The American people sent us to Washington to clean things up and this is just one example of where we can all agree -- that this money should be spent here at home rather than in China or Indonesia."
Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA) questioned EPA Assistant Administrator Craig Hooks about the prevalence of foreign grants relating to coal. Griffith explained that over 600 coal miners were laid off in his district last week and questioned why EPA was funding coal projects abroad at the same time the agency is imposing regulations that are helping eliminate coal mining here at home.
Daniel Simmons, Director of Regulatory and State Affairs at the Institute for Energy Research, described EPA's foreign grants as "symptomatic of out-of-control spending by the federal government." He explained, "Taxpayer dollars should be spent on projects that have an obvious benefit to the American people and these foreign grants do little, if anything, to benefit the American people. Lastly, if EPA would like to improve environmental quality at home and abroad, a far more productive approach would be to promote environmental improvements through economic growth. Years of research shows that economic growth promotes environmental protection."
David Kreutzer, Ph.D., Research Fellow with the Heritage Foundation, outlined a number of the reasons why these foreign grants are troubling, including the lack of investment by recipients of EPA grants into similar projects hoping to achieve the same goal. "EPA funding of foreign environmental programs is a clear sign that the foreign countries are unwilling to fund these programs themselves," he said. "It should be noted that the cost of these programs is a small fraction of the cost of those necessary for these countries to meet carbon emission targets set out by proponents of global-warming policies. So, this is yet another sign that any carbon legislation in the U.S. is likely to obligate U.S. energy consumers to bear not only the burden of our own policies, but the additional burden of paying foreign countries for their compliance."