The EPA is hard at work flushing your tax dollars down polluted rivers. (Photo: @WilliamsLawNYC)

Founded in 1970 under the Nixon administration, the Environmental Protection Agency was created for the purpose of protecting human health and the environment by writing and enforcing regulations based on laws passed by Congress.

Since its founding, the EPA has grown from 4,000 employees to more than 15,000 employees. Their annual budget in the 1970s was around $1 billion. As of 2016? More than $8 billion.

The mission of the EPA is simple: “protect human health and the environment.” Their website states that their purpose is to ensure that:

  • All Americans are protected from significant risks to human health and the environment where they live, learn and work
  • National efforts to reduce environmental risk are based on the best available scientific information
  • Federal laws protecting human health and the environment are enforced fairly and effectively

While the EPA is busy doing the exact opposite of their mission, they’re wasting your tax money.

Some of the biggest controversies surrounding the agency include regulation that ignores scientific data, fiscal irresponsibility, and even worse, the pollution of the environment they claim to protect.

The Washington Post reported that the EPA ignored scientific data when developing regulations on mercury emissions. In 2005, nine states sued the EPA after it was determined that the state’s regulation of mercury emissions did not follow the Clean Air Act.

The lawsuit alleged that the EPA’s rule exempting coal-fired power plants from “maximum available control technology” was illegal, and additionally charged that the EPA’s system of cap-and-trade to lower average mercury levels would allow power plants to forego reducing mercury emissions, which they objected would lead to dangerous local hotspots of mercury contamination even if average levels declined.

The EPA also has a penchant for the finer things in life.

According to a report from the Washington Times, the EPA has spent $92.4 million to purchase, rent, and install office furniture. Your tax dollars bought them fancy hickory chairs and coffee tables, along with a drawer to store pencils that cost $813.57. Government watchdog OpenTheBooks.com estimated that the shopping sprees averaged about $6,000 for every one of the agency’s 15,000 employees. (My home office furniture only cost me $250 from Target, but hey, who’s counting.)

Let’s not forget the one blunder the EPA would most like to put behind them — the Animas River disaster.

In 2015, a Missouri-based firm contracted by the EPA spilled 3 million gallons of toxic sludge from the Gold King Mine into the Animas River in Colorado. The pollutants flowed into New Mexico where it merged into the San Juan River, a critical source of water for Navajo communities. According to data from USAspending.gov, Environmental Restoration LLC has received $381 million in government contracts since October 2007, approximately $364 million from the EPA and $37 million from work performed in Colorado.

It’s been more than a year since that spill, and Navajo communities still have not received the proper aid to properly recover.

The amount of waste the EPA generates is beyond frustrating because (1) our hard-earned tax money is literally flushed into the Animas River; and (2) it’s very hard to hold a government agency that large responsible.

The solution lies in making our government earn our money. By implementing a voluntary tax system, we can send our money to the nonprofits and organizations that actually protect the environment instead of ruin it.

For example, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation is the largest independent conservation organization dedicated to saving the Bay. They fight for effective, science-based solutions to the pollution degrading the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and streams.

According to their 2016 annual report, underwater grasses expanded 21 percent, the blue crab population grew 35 percent, and the Bay’s oyster population rebounded due to the efforts of the organization and their volunteers who completed 25,000 hours of service.

Raise The River is an organization whose mission is to help reconnect the Colorado River to the Gulf of California and restore life to the Colorado River Delta. They partner with local communities to restore the river and its flow. To date, more than 180 acres have been restored in Colorado.

The mission of the nonprofit, American Rivers, is to protect and restore our nation’s rivers. They have worked with other nonprofits and government agencies to remove 200 river dams and restore floodplains and meadows.

If I had the option to give a portion of my tax dollars to any of the nonprofits above instead of the Environmental Protection Agency, I would do it every time because I’d know that my money was being used appropriately and effectively. Wouldn’t you?