Despite Audit, Taxpayer Funded Program Continues to Bankroll Anti-Pipeline Activists

pipeline economy activists audit taxpayerTwo years ago, news broke that the Department of Transportation was directly funding anti-pipeline activists through a little-known grant program called the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s (PHMSA) Technical Assistance Grant (TAG) Program. The discovery prompted an audit, which temporarily halted the grants. Now PHMSA is at it again, announcing a new round of TAG funding for a variety of organizations across the country, including a group that openly advocates against pipelines.

One of the grant recipients in the FY2018 program is the Pipeline Safety Coalition, which was given $99,938 to establish a “community safety awareness network” in Pennsylvania. The Pipeline Safety Coalition has received more than $1.1 million through the TAG program in the past, despite having filed public comments against major pipeline projects in Pennsylvania.

The Pipeline Safety Coalition grant shows that TAG is continuing to award grants to anti-pipeline groups in violation of its Congressional mandate.

InsideSources initially reported on TAG grants to the coalition in 2016, noting that the group appeared to have used government grant money to fund a study calling for Congressional action on pipeline regulations. Shortly afterward, the program was audited.

In August 2017, the DOT’s Office of Inspector General released a report on the finding of its audit, faulting PHMSA for failing to develop and implement grant oversight procedures. The audit found that that the grant agreements “do not explicitly state that grantees cannot use TAG funds for direct advocacy for or against a pipeline construction or expansion project.” Use of the funds for anti-pipeline advocacy is disallowed by Congress.

Meanwhile, PHMSA staff told auditors that they considered these grants to be “low risk” and did not always properly review audits of grant applicants, nor track if a group had previously received federal funding.

The FY2018 documents show that TAG continued to give grant money to the Pipeline Safety Coalition even after the audit found lax grant oversight. Since 2009, the Pipeline Safety Coalition has received nearly $1.1 million in TAG grants. Tracking the money is difficult however, because the coalitions have failed to file the proper IRS paperwork.

In addition, it appears that Lynda Farrell, who runs the small nonprofit out of her house, may have personally profited from the government grants. In September 2012, the coalition won a $50,000 grant from PHMSA. Five months later, local records show that Blue Heron Consulting, a firm that she runs out of her home, received $30,000 in PHMSA money.

Farrell has a history of partnership with anti-pipeline activist groups, including the Clean Air Council and the Delaware Riverkeeper Network. She has vocally resisted pipeline projects, including the PennEast line, and has used the name of her group when doing so.

The coalition’s anti-pipeline ties violate the statute which created the TAG program. Created by Congress in 2009, TAG authorizes PHMSA to provide funding to non-profits and local governments that would act to “improve damage prevention, develop new technologies, or otherwise improve pipeline safety” of natural gas or hazardous liquid pipelines. The law also clearly states that grant money “may not be used for lobbying, for direct advocacy for or against a pipeline construction or expansion project, or in direct support of litigation.”

PHMSA describes the grants as a program to “allow local communities and groups of individuals to obtain funding for technical assistance in the form of engineering or other scientific analysis of pipeline safety issues and help promote public participation in official proceedings.”

Green grants die hard.

Reprinted with permission from - Inside Sources - by Erin Mundahl

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3 years ago

Here’s an example of why calls for government audits don’t always achieve the desired results that many people think they will. That they are not, in and of themselves, some magic bullet to either eliminate waste or curtail fraud or misuse of taxpayer dollars. Yes, a government audit was performed and found that the specific grant money mentioned in the article was being issued to a group that stands in direct opposition to the goals for which the grants were originally authorized.

However, the administrative state, some call it the Deep State, neither cares what the outcomes of audits are nor are they going to modify their activity if they are discovered. The view of many in the administrative state is that they will be around long after the appointed or elected leaders of their departments or agencies are long gone and will be replaced by someone equally temporary in nature. So they feel emboldened to disregard whatever the current official government policy or audits find and instead run their little kingdoms as they see fit. Secure in the knowledge that their jobs are almost 100 percent guaranteed as being a member of the public employees union. Thus the PHMSA employees who administer these taxpayer dollars as grants feel safe in continuing to hand out grant dollars to an anti-pipeline green advocate. This is NOT an isolated incident, but rather simply an example of the likely hundreds of similar examples that occur daily in Washington.

A few things need to happen to break the grip of the administrative state in Washington to start to put an end to these type of incidents:
1) Either dissolve the federal public employee union completely (my personal choice) or significantly scale back the over-protections that allow federal employees to operate with near total impunity on their own agendas with no real fear of being held accountable.
2) Treat federal government employment the same as private sector employment. That means holding federal government employees to the same standards of accountability, productivity and schedules. As someone who worked in both the private sector and the public sector, the old adage of “good enough for government work” accurately symbolizes the embedded culture that breeds the almost total disregard for spending taxpayer dollars either properly or in the most efficient manner.

By doing both of the items above, those intent on promoting the “progressive agenda” will quickly find themselves with no where to really hide. Many of the younger members of DSA (Democrat Socialists of America), who are currently employed in Washington’s federal agencies and departments, will quickly tire of having to do their real jobs and no longer having the luxury to “run things as they see fit”. They will quit or be fired based on performance reviews. Either way, that is cleaning out lots (losing 5 to 7 percent of federal employees annually for the first two or three years is not unreasonable) of the obstruction built into the system and saving the taxpayers billions in reduced federal employee payroll dollars. Most of these jobs do NOT need to be backfilled as these agencies and departments are over-staffed by private sector standards.

Sorry this wasn’t the usual “woe is me” or bumper sticker post you may have been hoping for. The idea should be to identify the larger problem at hand, that allowed the specific incident the article mentions to take place, and then find a way to realistically solve that problem so that you eliminate the potential for other similar problems to occur.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x