EPA Required Promotional Signs at All Stimulus-Funded Projects

By Matt Cover | September 8, 2010 | 5:29 PM EDT

EPA stimulus sign (CNSNews.com)

(CNSNews.com) – The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) required that all contractors and grant recipients post signs that informed the public that the projects they were carrying out had been funded with money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) – better known as the stimulus package.
The admission comes from an EPA Inspector General’s report answering questions from Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) – ranking Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, who had previously authored a report on the Department of Transportation’s requirement that its grantees prominently display signs advertising that the project had been funded by the stimulus package.
As CNSNews.com previously reported, the Transportation Department said that it only “strongly encourages” grantees to post the signs, which are “solely used to publicize ARRA funding.”
EPA, however, admitted that it requires all grantees to display the signs.
“EPA included a standard term and condition in all grant agreements that stated that a sign must be displayed,” the IG report stated.
That condition read, in part: “This project receives funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) and the grantee, subgrantee or loan recipient must display the ARRA Logo in a manner that informs the public that the project is an ARRA investment.”
Further, the grant terms expressly stipulated that if the EPA logo was also displayed on the sign, it must not lead people to think that the EPA itself was funding the project, even though the agency is ultimately accountable for the federal funds appropriated to it.
“If the EPA logo is displayed along with the ARRA logo and logos of other participating entities, the EPA logo must not be displayed in a manner that implies that EPA itself is conducting the project. Instead, the EPA logo must be accompanied with a statement indicating that the grantee, subgrantee or loan recipient received financial assistance from EPA for the project,” the grant terms stated.
When Issa’s office asked whether EPA thought it had legal authority to require grantees to post the stimulus-promoting signs, EPA said that it could find no basis in law for the requirement.
“We were not able to identify statutory authority that explicitly allowed or disallowed the posting of signs, logos, or emblems intended to publicly identify the source or expenditure of Recovery Act funds,” the IG admitted.
In fact, the only projects not required to have promotional signs were mobile projects – such as environmentally-friendly buses – and project lasting one day or less. Every other EPA-directed project funded with ARRA money must have a sign that tells the public that the project was funded with stimulus money.
The EPA policy is a result of regulatory guidance issued by the White House itself specifying what types of emblems grantees and contractors should use when promoting the stimulus. The ARRA emblem is specifically designed to communicate President Obama’s intentions for the stimulus package.
“Projects funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) will bear a
newly-designed emblem,” the March 2009 guidance states. “The emblem is a symbol of President Obama’s commitment to the American People to invest their tax dollars wisely to put Americans back to work.”
An Issa spokesman told CNSNews.com that the EPA sign requirement was just another attempt by the Obama administration to promote a stimulus plan that has clearly failed in its two chief objectives – keeping unemployment below eight percent and creating three million jobs.
“Unemployment is up at 9.6 [percent], the stimulus is not working, and executive branch agencies are still out there insisting that we spend taxpayers’ money to promote a plan that’s not working, that hasn’t worked, and there’s more [stimulus] coming down the line,” he said.
“If we are asked to take up another dip into the taxpayers’ bucket of stimulus money are we going to see more signs?” the spokesman asked.
According to the IG’s report, EPA has funded 4,687 projects with stimulus money. EPA could not provide Issa with a total number of signs that have been erected at those projects, saying it was “difficult” to account for all the promotional signs.
“As of July 2010, EPA did not have information on the total cost of posting signs, logos, or emblems related to the Recovery Act. Recipients are not required to report this information. Therefore, we cannot provide an assessment of the total cost of posting signs, logos, or emblems,” the report admitted.