WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), chairman of the Water, Fish, and Wildlife Subcommittee for the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW), along with U.S. Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Senate EPW Committee and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), chairman of the Superfund, Waste Management, and Oversight Subcommittee, sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Adm. Gina McCarthy today to express concerns and demand answers regarding a recent New York Times article that reported that the EPA may have conducted an unprecedented, and possibly illegal lobbying and marketing effort on behalf of the controversial “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rulemaking.

In the letter, the Senators wrote, “As you know, many of the rules that are being pushed by your agency are controversial – including the rule to expand the scope of ‘Waters of the United States’ under the Clean Water Act – and are expected to have devastating effects to the economies of many states, ours included. That’s why a majority of states have demanded that the ‘Waters of the United States’ rulemaking be retracted or substantially revised before being finalized.”

Such opposition has been dismissed by the EPA, which has instead highlighted alleged public support for this rule. The EPA, along with groups supporting the rule, has consistently said that it has received more than one million comments on the rule, and has said that about 90 percent of those comments support the rule.

“According to a May 19, 2015 New York Times article, the EPA embarked on unprecedented and questionable lobbying campaign to generate public comments in support of this rulemaking. EPA has used a variety of social media tools to promote the importance of the Agency’s rulemaking efforts and to solicit these comments, including, but not limited to ‘Thunderclap’ to create a ‘virtual flash mob,’ YouTube videos, and the ‘#CleanWaterRules’ and ‘#DitchtheMyth’ hashtags on Twitter,” wrote the Senators.

“A deeper look at the “one million comment” claim shows a more complicated story,” the Senators wrote to Mrs. McCarthy. “According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, only 20,567 of those comments are considered ‘unique’ and of those, only 10 percent were considered substantive.

“In other words, the vast majority—more than 98 percent of the comments received—appeared to be mass mailings, the majority of which were likely generated by your agency’s unprecedented lobbying efforts.”

The letter sent to Administrator McCarthy demands that she answer a number of questions regarding the lobbying efforts led by the EPA, including how much staff time was spent generating the comments, how much taxpayer money went into generating them, and whether or not she received a legal opinion on the lobbying effort prior to her agency embarking on the unprecedented campaign.

Read the full letter here (LINK).