NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

EPA Using Taxpayers' Money to Change Their Minds

February 9, 2000

The Environmental Protection Agency hands out government funds to lobbying groups all the time -- a practice critics say is anti-democratic, if not totalitarian.

Congress established the EPA with the aim of reducing air pollution from automobiles and other sources. But the agency has wandered into the business of discouraging people from using their cars by creating disincentives for auto use. In 1996, the EPA began giving large grants to anti-auto groups -- hoping to extract motorists from behind the wheel and take mass transit, which few are willing to do.

  • Peter Samuel, editor of the Toll Roads Newsletter, discovered from agency documents that it has been giving $8 million in grants to anti-highway groups.
  • Its agenda is to reduce "auto dependency and urban sprawl" by killing proposed highway improvements.
  • In the past four years, it has given well over $6 million to "transportation partners" -- a euphemism for such groups as the Surface Transportation Policy Project, the Environmental Defense Fund and the Bicycle Federation of America to support those groups' efforts to discourage driving.
  • More than $2 million has gone to groups seeking to curb low-density suburban development -- so-called "sprawl" -- by promoting the latest urban planning fads.

EPA has also funded and designed anti-auto Web sites -- including one which lists highway projects that the groups funded by the agency are trying to kill.

Critics note a certain irony in all these anti-auto efforts. Increased congestion makes urban air dirtier. Cars pollute more in stop-and-go traffic than at free-flowing speeds of 45 to 55 miles per hour. So congestion reduction -- a benefit of more and improved highways, as well as reduced concentrations of populations -- can produce positive results for air quality.

Source: Randal O'Toole (Thoreau Institute), "Smart Growth at the Federal Trough," Washington Times, February 9, 2000.


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