- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 13, 2002

The Environmental Protection Agency has given more than $2 billion to nonprofit groups since 1993, often without competitive bidding, an Associated Press computer analysis found.
The agency's internal watchdog says some groups may have received favored treatment.
The grants went to a wide variety of groups, including environmental lobbies that sue the agency and senior citizen centers that function like temporary-worker agencies.
Among the grants listed in agency documents as awarded to nonprofits:
A $1,500 grant to help a university group create a "solid-waste board game" titled the Can Man Game.
More than $47,000 to help the Seattle Mariners baseball team, which had an $80 million payroll last year, develop a recycling program at its new stadium. The money was provided to the team by the grant recipient, the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce.
$150,000 to research the "role of lighting in human performance and productivity."
More than $300,000 over eight years for a "golf and the environment" project to encourage golf courses that rely on pesticides and fertilizers to be more environmentally friendly.
Nearly $100,000 to study how to reduce methane-gas emissions from livestock in the Ukraine.
The AP analysis of EPA grants and grant extensions to nonprofits found six of the top 10 recipients between 1993 and 2001 weren't environmental groups or researchers, but rather seniors groups that received tens of millions of dollars to hire about 1,800 older Americans as temporary workers for environmental projects.
The AARP Foundation topped the list with $98.5 million, followed by the National Older Worker Career Center at $90.6 million, the National Senior Citizens Education and Research Center ($74 million), the National Caucus and Center on Black Aged ($72 million) and the National Association of Hispanic Elderly ($43.9 million).
Larry Anderson ran the seniors program for AARP until the senior lobby dropped out, and he now works for the Career Center. He said workers 55 and older were recruited for EPA jobs ranging from clerk to scientist, but few earned more than $30,000 a year.
"This allows the EPA to get experienced people while educating their managers on the value of younger people and older people working together," Mr. Anderson said.
Many of EPA's grants have been awarded without competition and left to the discretion of agency employees, the agency's internal watchdog has found.
In a scathing report last May, the inspector general said the EPA was unable to justify its award of more than $1 billion in noncompetitive grants in the 2000 fiscal year alone.
There were "implications of preferential treatment in the selection of grantees," the report said.
It said EPA officials justified no-bid grants by calling recipients "uniquely qualified." The designation was "based solely on the project officers' beliefs, without any documented proof that no other organizations were able to perform the desired work," the report concluded.
Howard Corcoran, director of the EPA's grants office, said changes are being made to increase competitive bidding beginning Oct. 1. "The agency has become much more sensitive since [the report] of the need for competition in grants," he said.
Mr. Corcoran said some projects are not as trivial as they may sound. "I understand pesticides in golf courses are a big problem," he said.
Some in Congress have become concerned at the growth of grants to nonprofit groups that also lobby federal officials, engage in politics or file lawsuits against the government.
"We've learned that a very small fraction of these grants are ever audited," said Mark Levin, president of the Landmark Legal Foundation, a conservative public-interest law firm. "Most of them are awarded without competition, and with virtually no public notice."
Mr. Levin's group sued to get the grant records from EPA and gave them to AP for its analysis, which identified several grants to groups that sued the government over environmental rules.
For instance, the National Association of Homebuilders, whose research arm received $2 million in grants, sued to eliminate a rule barring developers from excavating in swamps, bogs and marshes without approval. And the Natural Resources Defense Council, which received $4.9 million in grants, filed suits over pesticide and arsenic regulations.

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