Jakarta Breathes Even Easier


Last week, we learned that the House Energy and Commerce Committee has been investigating some enormous Environmental Protection Agency grants to environmental projects around the world.  A good $27 million of your tax money has been handed out to foreign governments and corporations.

House investigators noticed some “significant discrepancies” in the EPA’s grant database, which resulted in the database going offline for revision during the holiday weekend.

How big were those discrepancies?  Consider the fabled “Breathe Easy, Jakarta” program, a $15,000 publicity campaign for clean air in Indonesia funded by American taxpayers.  The House Energy and Commerce Committee found an EPA press release, and accompanying blog post, from February 2010 which declared the true value of this grant to be $450,000.

But wait – it gets better.  The committee also discovered a set of guidelines for submitting further proposals to expand the “Breathe Easy, Jakarta” campaign.  The deadline for these proposals was April 15.  Their total value? $1.5 million dollars.

For an advertising campaign.  In Indonesia.

House Energy Committee chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), along with subcommittee chairs Edi Whitfield (R-KY), John Shimkus (R-IL), and Cliff Stearns (R-FL), have written a letter to EPA administrator Lisa Jackson, asking if anything beyond the initial $15,000 was actually spent on the “Breathe Easy, Jakarta” campaign. 

They’re also curious about what made Jackson think her agency could throw this kind of lettuce at these overseas programs.  “As the steward of approximately $10 billion in U.S. taxpayer dollars annually, about half of which is allocated to its grant programs, it is important that the EPA acknowledge the legal or statutory authority under which a particular grant or cooperative agreement is made.”

The committee leaders also wonder what else might be missing from the EPA database:  “We are concerned that the database provides neither a complete record of EPA grants awarded or committed to in recent years nor the applicable statutory authorities under which those grants are conferred – in our view, two rather crucial missing details.”  Indeed.