Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Watchdog Group: EPA Sharing Pro-Trump Resignation Letter Violated Laws Against Campaigning on Public Dime

Politics
Watchdog Group: EPA Sharing Pro-Trump Resignation Letter Violated Laws Against Campaigning on Public Dime
A view of the EPA headquarters on March 16, 2017 in Washington, DC. Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

The Office of Public Affairs for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ran afoul of a law against campaigning when it made a resignation letter praising President Donald Trump available to the press, watchdog group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) said Monday.

On Feb. 7, former Principal Deputy Administrator in the EPA's Office of Air and Radiation Mandy Gunasekara sent a letter to the president on official EPA stationary saying she was leaving to work educating the public about the successes of the Trump administration. This letter was then made available to reporters, the EPA confirmed to Government Executive.


"Ensuring eight years of your leadership is of utmost importance," she wrote.

PEER claims the press office's actions violated the Hatch Act, or An Act to Prevent Pernicious Political Activities, which mandates that civil servants not campaign on official time or with official resources. The organization sent a letter Monday to the Hatch Act Unit of the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) asking them to investigate the issue.

"By all appearances, EPA is illegally using taxpayer dollars to promote political propaganda," PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch said in a press release. "Unfortunately, EPA's Office of Public Affairs now operates like a political war room and seems to have lost sight of its public service obligations."

Gunasekara said in her letter to Trump that she was leaving to start an organization "built to defend you and the many energy, regulatory and economic successes of your administration." That organization, The Energy 45 Fund, is headquartered out of Gunasekara's home state of Mississippi, ThinkProgress reported. Both Gunasekara's letter and her organization's website criticize the Paris agreement and the emerging Green New Deal. Her letter warned of "dangerous rhetoric from the far-left supportive of Venezuelan-style socialism, government take-overs, and crony green new deals."

In their letter to the OSC, PEER said that Gunasekara's use of official letterhead would have been a violation of the Hatch Act had she not resigned. As is, they want an investigation into whether other officials, including Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler, who is awaiting Senate confirmation to run the agency permanently, could be held accountable. The letter explains:

"The employees within the EPA Office of Public Affairs who distributed or provided the letter to reporters also violated the Hatch Act because they are using official time and resources to engage in political activity. They remain on the federal payroll and are subject to penalties for Hatch Act violations.

In addition, acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler issued a statement about her departure, praising her work. This suggests that he had advance knowledge of the resignation and may have played a role in distributing the letter."

The EPA's press office defended itself in a statement to Government Executive, saying that it "has provided resignation letters and statements when asked by the press and with consent from former employees. Content of the resignation letters is the work of the former employees."

With restaurants and supermarkets becoming less viable options during the pandemic, there has been a growth in demand and supply of local food. Baker County Tourism Travel Baker County / Flickr

By Robin Scher

Beyond the questions surrounding the availability, effectiveness and safety of a vaccine, the COVID-19 pandemic has led us to question where our food is coming from and whether we will have enough.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Tearing through the crowded streets of Philadelphia, an electric car and a gas-powered car sought to win a heated race. One that mimicked how cars are actually used. The cars had to stop at stoplights, wait for pedestrians to cross the street, and swerve in and out of the hundreds of horse-drawn buggies. That's right, horse-drawn buggies. Because this race took place in 1908. It wanted to settle once and for all which car was the superior urban vehicle. Although the gas-powered car was more powerful, the electric car was more versatile. As the cars passed over the finish line, the defeat was stunning. The 1908 Studebaker electric car won by 10 minutes. If in 1908, the electric car was clearly the better form of transportation, why don't we drive them now? Today, I'm going to answer that question by diving into the history of electric cars and what I discovered may surprise you.

Read More Show Less

Trending

A technician inspects a bitcoin mining operation at Bitfarms in Saint Hyacinthe, Quebec on March 19, 2018. LARS HAGBERG / AFP via Getty Images

As bitcoin's fortunes and prominence rise, so do concerns about its environmental impact.

Read More Show Less
OR-93 traveled hundreds of miles from Oregon to California. Austin Smith Jr. / Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs / California Department of Fish and Wildlife

An Oregon-born wolf named OR-93 has sparked conservation hopes with a historic journey into California.

Read More Show Less
A plume of exhaust extends from the Mitchell Power Station, a coal-fired power plant built along the Monongahela River, 20 miles southwest of Pittsburgh, on Sept. 24, 2013 in New Eagle, Pennsylvania. The plant, owned by FirstEnergy, was retired the following month. Jeff Swensen / Getty Images

By David Drake and Jeffrey York

The Research Brief is a short take about interesting academic work.

The Big Idea

People often point to plunging natural gas prices as the reason U.S. coal-fired power plants have been shutting down at a faster pace in recent years. However, new research shows two other forces had a much larger effect: federal regulation and a well-funded activist campaign that launched in 2011 with the goal of ending coal power.

Read More Show Less